Coming into the season, all the talk around the Atlantic Coast Conference and the country was about Clemson’s high-flying offense and quarterback Deshaun Watson.
Watson was the preseason favorite to win ACC Player of the Year for a second straight year and he was the media darling as he made his way to Bristol (ESPN’s headquarters) and just about everywhere else this past off-season.
But since the season has begun, things have changed. In the first month of the season all the talk has been about Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson, and deservedly so.
Jackson has been a human highlight reel through the first four weeks. He has already put up 1,856 yards of total offense (second nationally) and 25 total touchdowns. He had 405 yards against Charlotte, 610 vs. Syracuse, 362 vs. Florida State and 479 against Marshall.
He even hurdled a Syracuse defender, and made Florida State look like a bunch of school kids as he broke one big run after another on his way to running for 146 yards and scoring four touchdowns.
As Jackson and the fourth-ranked Cardinals come into Death Valley this coming Saturday to play No. 3 Clemson, it’s Jackson who is the early favorite to win the Heisman while Watson, who has not totally fallen off the radar, is no longer in the conversation after the Tigers’ slow start offensively.
“Everyone loves to talk about Lamar and Deshaun has kind of been in the background,” Clemson linebacker Ben Boulware said. “I was like, ‘We have a pretty good quarterback here, too.’
But none of that bother’s Watson as he say this week’s game isn’t about Watson vs. Jackson.
“All of that talk is for the fans to draw attention to this game. It is for the media. It is for the money,” he said. “All of that stuff. At the end of the day, it is Clemson vs. Louisville. We are going to focus on what we have to do at Clemson and do what we want to do. We can’t worry about what Louisville is doing or what Lamar Jackson is doing, we have to focus on what we are doing and prepare throughout the week and go out there on Saturday and execute.”
Though Watson can’t worry about what Jackson is doing, he did admit that it is fun as a competitor to go against a player of Jackson’s ability.
“It’s competition. If you play this game, and all the great ones love the great competition going against the best regardless,” the Clemson quarterback said. “He has to do what he has to do and I have to do what I have to do.
“We are both going against two good defenses on both sides so we just have to go out there and do what we have to do and be ourselves.”