If you’re a college football fan, Saturday is the kind of day you live for. The top three teams in America – Alabama, Florida State and Ohio State – play true road games against three top-20 teams.
The Seminoles (2-0) have the toughest task on paper, as they will square off against No. 10 Louisville (2-0) at Cardinal Stadium at 12 p.m. ET. If Louisville pulls off the upset, it’ll be because Lamar Jackson – who already has 1,000+ total yards and 13 touchdowns (seven pass, six rush) – goes off for the third week in a row.
“I hate to compare him to Michael Vick’s running skills, but he’s very similar,” ACC Network analyst Tommy Bowden said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “At 6-3, 205, (he’s) a different body type and just presents all kind of problems for you. He made the statement this summer: I don’t want to make freshman mistakes as a sophomore. I think he was very conscientious and really studied this summer and had a great coach in Bobby Petrino as far as how to bring him along. But man, he’s got a supporting cast. These wideouts (are) big, physical guys. (They have great) running backs and (a great) offensive line, so he’s in a great position with a great coach. He could really make himself a factor in the Heisman with how he does against Florida State.”
Louisville overwhelmed Charlotte, 70-14, in its season-opener and did the same last weekend against Syracuse, winning 62-28. Jackson is averaging 11.2 yards per pass attempt and 9.9 yards per rush.
Those numbers, in short, are ridiculous.
“There’s two things I’m going to look at (in this game),” Bowden said, looking ahead to Florida State. “One is how are they going to defend Lamar Jackson and his running ability? Are they going to take out a bigger linebacker, somebody that can tackle him in space? Whoever you put in there is only going to tackle him 50 percent of the time, but you better put somebody in there that can tackle him 50 percent of the time in space. He makes big plays. The old days of play zone and everybody rallies when the play breaks down, you can’t do that with a guy like Lamar Jackson. So I’m interested to see what Charles Kelly, their defensive coordinator, does schematically to account for the running skills of Lamar Jackson.”
And the second key? Petrino.
“He spent a lot of time in the pros. He’s a master in finding mismatches on the field,” Bowden said. “How are they going to go after Derwin James’ (replacement)? The great safety at Florida State is going to miss (the game with a knee injury). How is Bobby Petrino going to attack the substitute for Derwin James? Does he go after that guy, and how is Florida State going to account for the running skills of Lamar Jackson?”
In the end, Bowden expects Florida State to survive a nail-biter.
“I’m going to have a hard time going against Florida State because of their depth across the board,” he said. “I think it’ll be a close game – the biggest game in history at Louisville. GameDay has never been there, it’s a basketball state. Louisville is going to start fast, they’ll be on fire. But I just think overall, Deondre Francois is really, really talented.”
No. 5 Clemson (2-0), meanwhile, hosts South Carolina State. The Tigers, who last year played for a national championship, have been underwhelming this year, fending off Auburn and Troy by six points apiece.
Deshaun Watson has completed just 52.9 percent of his passes, is averaging 3.6 yards per carry and is yet to find the end zone as a rusher. He’s also thrown three interceptions.
If Clemson fans are worried, well, Bowden isn’t.
“The Auburn game, I think you can kind of justify,” he said. “You give a good defensive coordinator (Kevin Steele) and good athletes six months to prepare. It didn’t bother me that much. Auburn put some good athletes (on the field) and had six months to prepare for it. The second game was concerning. I think there’s no doubt that Deshaun Watson has self-imposed too much pressure on himself trying to exceed last year’s standard (as) the first 4,000/1,000 quarterback in the history of college football. And then the emergence of Lamar Jackson and Deondre Francois (has affected him). Deshaun Watson set back and say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, this Heisman was mine. I’m the best in my conference.’ I think that has gotten to him a little bit and he has not performed up to his expectations.”