They say November is when they remember.
That theory will be tested in the Heisman Trophy race in the next 10 days. After dominating all of September and most parts of October, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has opened the door for someone else to come and steal his Heisman Trophy.
In back-to-back losses to Houston and Kentucky to close out the regular season, Jackson looked far from stellar. If November is when voters remember in the Heisman Trophy race, Jackson might be forgotten about by the time Heisman voters turn in their ballots on Dec. 5.
While voters might be forgetting about Jackson, they are all remembering why they liked Clemson’s Deshaun Watson. Of course Watson reminded them why in Saturday’s 56-7 victory over rival South Carolina.
The junior tied his own Clemson and ACC record with six touchdown passes, while throwing for 347 yards on 26-of-32 passing. But Saturday’s win over the Gamecocks was not the only night Watson went off in the month of November.
For the month, Watson completed 113 of 151 passes (.748) for 1,306 yards and 12 touchdowns. Granted, he threw four interceptions, but three came in the Tigers’ loss to Pitt when he also completed 52-of-70 passes (.743) for an ACC-record 580 yards and three touchdowns.
“I still go back to the Pitt game. I have never been around anything like that,” Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said. “Seventy passes and you complete seventy-plus percent, seventy-four percent of your passes. It’s incredible and then he follows it these last two weeks and last night with 81 percent completion.”
Overall in November, Watson has totaled 1,419 yards and 15 touchdowns. Most importantly, the Tigers went 3-1 down the stretch and clinched a berth in next week’s ACC Championship Game.
“South Carolina was 17th in the country in pass defense coming into that game – 17th in the country! He goes out and completes 81 percent of his passes, six touchdowns and he should have had eight,” Swinney said.
Keep in mind, Watson did that to the Gamecocks in just two and half quarters.
“His ability to impact the game with his mind, his ability to impact the game with his legs, there is just nobody else out there. This guy is special,” Swinney said.
In his four games in November, Jackson still made his share of big plays, but his overall numbers dropped. The sophomore completed just 56 percent of his 111 passes and he has thrown five interceptions, including three in Saturday’s loss to Kentucky.
Against his rival, Jackson turned the ball over five times, including a crucial fumble while trying to make a play inside the Kentucky 10-yard line with under two minutes to play, which led to the Wildcats’ game-winning field goal with 12 seconds to play.
Jackson also had a crucial fumble in the red zone in the Cardinals’ loss to Houston the week before. Watson, as documented, has had his share of mistakes too. However, after two costly interceptions in the end zone cost him and the Tigers in a loss to Pitt, he has bounced back and played nearly flawless in wins over Wake Forest and South Carolina, while totaling nine touchdowns and just one interception.
By the way, if voters point to Watson’s 14 interceptions, they are sure to see Jackson’s 14 overall turnovers – nine interceptions and five fumbles.
So who should win the Heisman? For Swinney, that is simple. He says look at the win-loss record. Clemson is 11-1 and Louisville is 9-3.
“How do you win? How do you lead your team to victory? There is not a better winner out there than Deshaun Watson. He is the best player in the country. It is just that simple. He is the best quarterback and he is the best player in this nation,” Swinney said.
For his career, Watson is 29-3 as a starter.
“What he has done here at Clemson is amazing. It is absolutely amazing. What he did last year and what he has done this year, and you really have to study some of the drives he has put together,” Swinney said. “What he did last year, what he did this year. If you really just study some of the drives he put together this year, and not pay attention to the people that have taken shots at him … We had 12 drops in our first two games and four were touchdowns.”
In the month of November, when everyone is supposed to remember, Watson has more total yards (1,419 to 1,410) and more total (15 to 13) touchdowns than Jackson.
“I know I’m biased, and he is my guy. But he is all of those things and he is an unbelievable worker. That is the bottom line, to me, that is what it comes down to. I’m really proud of the season he has had and the leadership he has provided,” Swinney said. “I don’t get to vote in all of that stuff, but to me it is an easy decision.
“Other people have their reasons for what they think, but that’s what I think. I have a right to my opinion, too.”
If Watson plays against Virginia Tech in the ACC Championship Game, like he has against everyone else in November, then Swinney’s opinion might mean a little more come Dec. 5.