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Matt Connolly | The State | September 29, 2016

Watson and Jackson: The once and present Heisman frontrunners

  Clemson's 'Death Valley' will be the location on Saturday night as the Tigers host Louisville.

CLEMSON, S.C.  -- Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson has passed Deshaun Watson and the other Heisman candidates in front of him over the past four weeks to become the favorite to win the award.

But it's only September, so both players have a chance to make a big statement on the national stage on Saturday night in Death Valley.

Watson has gone from the Heisman favorite in the preseason to almost an afterthought in the race. He wasn't one of five candidates listed in ESPN's latest Heisman Watch, despite having more passing yards through four games than last year (996 to 725) and the same number of touchdowns (9) and interceptions (4).

Watson and every other player in the country have been overshadowed by Jackson, who's on pace to have one of the greatest seasons in college football history. The sophomore has accounted for 1,886 yards of offense and 25 touchdowns, causing Clemson coach Dabo Swinney to describe him as a right-handed Michael Vick.

"He's got that same explosiveness. ... I don't like to compare guys, but that's what it looks like," Swinney said. "He's a weapon in every aspect, whether it's dropping back and scrambling, designed runs for him or throwing the football."

Even though Watson's numbers are better than at this time last year, they don't compare to Jackson's. Watson has about 700 total yards and 16 touchdowns fewer than his counterpart in Saturday's game. Still, the junior has time to make up ground in the Heisman race, and he can start by outshining Jackson in the top-5 showdown.

"I know he's going to be amped up a lot because I know he's the best player in the country, and I think he knows that too," Tigers receiver Ray-Ray McCloud said of Watson. "For him to go against someone that's one of the best players in the country as well is going to have him at a whole other level."

Watson pointed to Alabama running back Derrick Henry winning the Heisman after performing well down the stretch in 2015 as proof that the award is won at the end of the year, not in Week 5. He admitted he's anxious to compete with Jackson, even if the two won'tbe on the field at the same time.

"All the great ones love the great competition, going against the best," Watson said. "I just do what I do and play my game and do what I do to win. I can't control what people say about the Heisman."

Clemson players made it clear who they would rather have in their huddle for this weekend's game.

Jackson's video-game like numbers have attracted a lot of attention, but Tigers linebacker Ben Boulware feels Watson's being overlooked.

"Everyone loves talking about Lamar and Deshaun's kind of been in the background," he said. "I'm just like, 'We've got a pretty good quarterback here too.' "

Said Tigers linebacker Kendall Joseph: "Deshaun is the best quarterback in the nation."

Watson will have a chance to prove Joseph right this weekend.

 

This article was written by MATT CONNOLLY from The State and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.