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Multiple Heisman hopefuls take the field Saturday in Louisville

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Talking about the Heisman Trophy in September is like talking about baseball’s MVP in May. Some may remember George Steinbrenner’s dig at former Yankee and current Hall of Fame member Dave Winfield when he referred to him as “Mr. May.”

But that doesn’t stop the pundits from rating the contenders after the first two weeks of the season. For Florida State fans, there’s a justifiable reason for taking a peek at some of them.

Before the season began, most thought one Heisman hopeful would take the field Saturday in Louisville. That would be second-ranked Florida State’s Dalvin Cook. Now, another, if not two, are now on that list.

Tenth-ranked Louisville’s Lamar Jackson has the college football world abuzz with his running, throwing, and leadership. Jackson has come from nowhere to now be listed as the top candidate by a growing number of college football analysts.

USA Today has him at the top of the list. Jason Smith of Fox Sports says Jackson is “well on his way” to winning the award. Those setting the odds are yet to be totally convinced.

Despite two sub-par performances (for him), Deshaun Watson of Clemson remains the favorite by the Westgate Las Vegas Sportsbook. Watson is ranked second in the Bovada odds to Stanford all-purpose running back Christian McCaffrey.

Tied for third with Jackson in the Bovada rankings is Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett and a guy named Deondre Francois from Florida State. Yes, ahead of Cook.

When Saturday’s game is over, we’ll have a better idea who are the contenders — or pretenders. Jackson has accounted for 13 touchdowns in two lopsided wins over Charlotte and Syracuse. Now he gets his chance against the big boys.

Let’s not forget what he did last year. As a freshman, he came into Doak Campbell Stadium at midseason and threw for 307 yards and three touchdowns in a 41-21 loss to FSU.

That was with Jalen Ramsey and Derwin James in the defensive secondary. Ramsey is now in the NFL and James is on crutches.

One of the keys was holding Jackson to only 32 yards rushing in 19 attempts. This year he is averaging 10 yards per carry and has rushed for six touchdowns.

Cook has yet to have a 100-yard rushing game, but ran through the Cardinals for 163 yards and two touchdowns last year. He will again be a focus of the Louisville defense, but it is now apparent FSU opponents must pick their poison.

Francois is stepping up and making plays when defenses are keying on Cook. The redshirt freshman has completed 69 percent of his passes for 681 yards and five touchdowns while averaging about 30 yards rushing per game.

Jackson has been spectacular against two inferior opponents. Francois has been outstanding, while Cook has been a significant contributor against a ranked opponent and a schedule filler.

Expect the Heisman talk before and after the game on Saturday. ESPN Game Day will be in town to add to the hyperbole.

It should be fun to watch.

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Bob Sparks is President of Ramos and Sparks Group, a Tallahassee-based business and political consulting firm. During his career, he has directed media relations and managed events for professional baseball, served as chief spokesperson for the Republican Party of Florida as well as the Florida Department of Environmental Protection and the Attorney General of Florida. After serving as Executive Deputy Chief of Staff for Governor Charlie Crist, he returned to the private sector working with clients including the Republican National Committee and political candidates in Japan. He lives in Tallahassee with his wife, Sue and can be reached at Bob@ramos-sparks.com.

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