Lamar Jackson has produced signature performance against two of the ACC’s best teams.
Jackson threw for 216 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 13 of 20 passing, while rushing for 146 yards and four touchdowns on 17 attempts in a 63-20 loss to then-No. 2 Florida State. Several weeks later, the sophomore threw for 295 yards, one touchdown and one interception on 27 of 44 passing, while rushing for 162 yards and two touchdowns on 31 attempts against Clemson.
However, Louisville lost that game, 42-36, despite the quarterback’s explosive performance. With the win, Clemson remained the favorite to win the ACC and is still a favorite to secure a College Football Playoff spot.
First, the Tigers must defeat a game Florida State team coming off back-to-back wins and a bye week. What does Jackson have to do with the ACC’s biggest Week 9 matchup?
The sophomore quarterback may have helped Clemson prepare for FSU.
While it may not make sense initially, consider this: The Tigers now control their own destiny.
Despite many believing that Louisville is the best team in the conference and could defeat Clemson in a rematch, it really doesn’t matter. There is less pressure for the Tigers to win with the proverbial monkey off their backs.
Clemson has already played its biggest game of the season and managed to win it. Saturday’s matchup against the Seminoles won’t even be close in terms of significance because of how bad the ‘Noles lost in Week 3.
Thanks to Jackson, there is less pressure entering Saturday’s game because the Tigers already beat the team that steamrolled FSU. That bodes well for the defending ACC champs, who will try to end their four-game losing streak at Doak Campbell Stadium dating back to 2008.
Jackson also helped Clemson from a schematic standpoint. Through his performance, FSU defense was exposed as a unit that struggles against an elite dual-threat quarterback.
While many may consider Jackson as a unanimous Heisman favorite, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson is arguably one of the best players in college football. He should find a similar level of success against the ‘Noles. Watson has the athletic ability to beat FSU both through the air and on the ground, although he hasn’t relied as heavily on rushing compared to Jackson. However, with FSU struggling against mobile quarterbacks, the junior may need to rely more on his athleticism.
Let’s not discredit the Seminoles too much heading into Saturday’s matchup. FSU’s defense is coming off two consecutive strong performances, which included holding Wake Forest to just 252 yards of total offenses and out of the end zone for the fifth consecutive year.
Perhaps the humbling performance against Louisville, as well as the loss to North Carolina, has forced FSU to make necessary changes… or maybe the ‘Noles have worked through their kinks after being tested.
Either way, FSU looks like a better team than the one we saw against Louisville during the Week 3 blowout. Playing in Doak Campbell Stadium should also help the Noles’ chances.
However, Clemson has plenty of advantages of its own, including capturing a win against Louisville and Jackson. There’s little doubt that CU’s victory will be crucial in Saturday’s game both from a psychological and schematic standpoint.