On Saturday, Lamar Jackson will (likely) be awarded the 81st Heisman Trophy. He’ll get a week to to celebrate his accomplishment and Christmas, and then he will have a week to prepare for the best defense he will have faced in his career.
Lamar Jackson has been this year’s embodiment of a video game character, putting up insane numbers on a whim. He is eighth in the NCAA in terms of rushing yards with 1,538. That is 289 more than Derrius Guice, LSU’s leading rusher has. He is tied for fourth most rushing touchdowns with 21, seven more than Guice’s 14.
Those are his rushing numbers. It would make sense for a running back to have those kinds of rushing numbers, but the twist is that Jackson is not a running back. He is the quarterback, and his main function is to throw the ball, ideally to the sweaty men wearing the same color shirts as he is on that specific day. As it happens, he’s quite good at that as well.
Lamar Jackson is 12th in the NCAA with 3,390 passing yards and 11th with 30 passing touchdowns. I won’t bother telling you how that compares with LSU’s leading passer because those numbers are favorable in the same way as getting your mail delivered tied to a brick conveniently placed through a brick-sized hole in your window is your favorable method of mail delivery.
However, the thing about these numbers listed above is that they have been achieved by playing teams that are markedly not-LSU and not lead by Dave Aranda, defensive mastermind extraordinaire. Mathematically there are three defenses in college football that are better than LSU’s, and Louisville has yet to play any of those teams either.
In the words arranged above, I called Dave Aranda a “mastermind extraordinaire”. “Mastermind” is one of my favorite words because oddly enough it has a negative connotation, likely stemming from movies where the antagonist is extremely intelligent, more intelligent than the protagonist, regardless of how intelligent the protagonist to start with. As it happens, like many other things in life, the connotation associated with the word “mastermind is entirely dependent upon perspective. To LSU fans, the man who came and took the 27th-best defense in the nation after one year had trimmed that number all the way down to four, it has a very positive connotation. To Lamar Jackson, the man who is responsibly for the best defense he has yet to face (and for all we know, best to face period), Aranda is a very, very, very bad man.
So it comes down to one of sport’s greatest cliche’s: the unstoppable force and the immovable object. One thrives on creating chaos and relies on improvisation, while the other craves orderly destruction and has a contingency plan for every scenario. This tank is barreling towards this wall at remarkably high speeds, and both cannot win the collision. There’s nothing you can do to prevent this collision, so you may want to slowly back away from the anticipated impact area and watch the forthcoming meeting between the object moving at high rates of speed and the object that is designed to prevent, or at least redirect, those such things.
If Lamar Jackson and company are the tank barreling towards the wall, then Bobby Petrino is the fearless operator of the tank, commanding it towards the brick wall. You see, there is a tank in this metaphor instead of of a motorcycle because it is likely not a great idea for Bobby Petrino to be driving a motorcyle.
Bobby Petrino may not be familiar with the builders of this proverbial wall, but the wall’s numerous fans are familiar with our fearless tank operator. The last time the two met, Petrino’s third-ranked Arkansas took to Baton Rouge to play No. 1 LSU. Arkansas lead for much of the first half, until Tyrann Mathieu housed a 92-yard punt to tie it late in the second quarter. LSU would score on a Jordan Jefferson nine yard pass to Russell Shepard to go ahead, and then they would not look back. LSU would win 41-17, and Petrino wasn’t pleased with Les Miles:
Five months later, Petrino crashed his motorcycle with a mistress that had received a job inside the Arkansas athletic department in addition to sizeable cash considerations and was fired from Arkansas. After a brief period at Western Kentucky, he is back where his head coaching career began, Louisville. He had the Cardinals primed for a run at the college football playoff this year, but losses to Clemson and Houston kept the Cardinals from the four team tournament.
Tough break for a good guy, I’m sure of it.
It should be noted that this game is placed well in terms of the bigger picture. While it’s true that this game kicks off at 10 a.m. CST and that’s an obscene time to play a game of football, the conclusion of this particular athletic contest will coincide with the beginning of another, with slightly more importance: The Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, which serves as the College Football Playoff, between Washington and Alabama. That game, in turn, leads directly to the start of the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl, another semifinal game, between Clemson and Ohio State. While it’s slightly disappointing to both teams that they ended up on the undercard to such main events, there is some solace to be taken in the fact that this game is a really, really, really, really good undercard.
Finally, this game is about fun. LSU will not win anything worthy of banners or flags with a win, and they will not lose such an opportunity. I’m sure that if you really wanted, you can contract somebody to make a flag for a victory in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, if not construct it yourself, but you will be perceived as quite the fool for doing so, despite this culture’s affinity for flags. No, this game is about fun and appreciation. This is a meaningless football game between your favorite team and a coach you should probably have no business liking, so soak it up because the offseason is long and devoid of such opportunities. Also, this is the last go around for generally well-liked football players such as Leonard Fournette, Jamal Adams, Tre’davious White, Kendall Beckwith, Tashawn Bower, Colby Delahoussaye, Duke Reilly, Dwayne Thomas, Travin Dural, Ethan Pocic, Josh Boutte, and Malachi Dupre. These players may not have lived up the goal of national championships that they have set for themselves, but they are well deserving of a victory lap in Orlando, Florida. This game will serve as their last hoorah in purple and gold (barring an employment offer made by the Minnesota Vikings or any other professional football organization that dons the same colors) and that should be celebrated.
Lastly, Louisville’s mascot is a bird with human teeth, which is wildly incorrect anatomically.