Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) drops back to pass during the second half of their NCAA college football game against North Carolina State, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. Louisville won 54-13. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) drops back to pass during the second half of their NCAA college football game against North Carolina State, Saturday, Oct. 22, 2016, in Louisville, Ky. Louisville won 54-13. (AP Photo/Timothy D. Easley)

It didn’t take long for Louisville Cardinals’ quarterback Lamar Jackson to leave his imprint on the 2016-2017 college football campaign. After Jackson recorded his 34th touchdown of the season in Louisville’s 54-13 demolition of North Carolina State on Oct. 22, Jackson already holds the school record for most touchdowns recorded and the Cardinals’ season is only at the midway mark. Jackson’s record is already well north of the number of touchdowns accrued by the last group of quarterbacks to win the Heisman. He’s been nothing short of amazing and appears to have the inside track on college football’s most prestigious award. Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley of the AFRO Sports Desk debate whether the Heisman Trophy has already been won.

Riley: You would be hard-pressed to find the last quarterback to have the type of impact that Jackson has had this season. He’s been mentioned with names like Michael Vick, Cam Newton and Robert Griffin III—elite company for an elite player who’s practically a shoo-in to win the next Heisman. Jackson runs, he throws and he leads, all key components of the majority of quarterbacks to win the award over the last few years. There’s some great players making headlines across the college football landscape but none have dominated game plans to the degree that Jackson has. If he’s not the frontrunner to win then it might be time to call foul.

Green: Jackson has been terrific, but the thing that might hurt him is Louisville’s lack of primetime games. The biggest matchup, perhaps, was a game in which Jackson and Louisville lost to Clemson, 42-36 on Oct. 1 when both teams entered the match ranked inside the top five. He’s not a sure-fire pick, in my opinion, because he simply hasn’t done anything amazing in an impact game. Louisville had a juicy date with the Houston Cougars in mid-November but, considering that Houston has already lost two games this season, even that matchup might not be enough to give Louisville a noteworthy win. Jackson is great but who has he played against?

Riley: Jackson’s stats have been so off-the-wall this season that it might not even matter who Louisville beats and who they lose to. When you dominate from the quarterback position week in and week out, Heisman voters are going to have a difficult time keeping him off the top of the list. He has a realistic chance of reaching 50 to 60 touchdowns by season’s end. He’s thrown for 18 touchdowns and has already rushed for another 16 scores. A one-man wrecking crew with sub-40 speed, he’s the most productive player in the country, which is all it takes to be a Heisman winner.

Green: The Heisman Trophy has traditionally been a quarterback-driven award, but every now and then there’s always a player who can dominate the game without the flashy touchdowns. Michigan’s Jabrill Peppers might not be a frontrunner for the Heisman but he should. He is a combo defensive back who can play every position in the secondary, multiple positions in the linebacker corps and can even rush the passer and make big plays on offense. The last non-offensive player to win the Heisman was Charles Woodson, another Michigan Wolverine, back in 1997. With just a little bit of athleticism and the right offensive scheme, quarterbacks can pile up unbelievable stats in today’s college football. But not everybody can dominate the game from the defensive backfield. Peppers would be my vote for the Heisman if the season ended right now. Michigan has played in several big games against top competition and still has a few flavorful matchups left before the season ends. Jackson has done a remarkable job of playing within Louisville’s system and producing, but I wouldn’t hand him the Heisman Trophy just yet. There’s still a lot more season left.

Perry Green and Stephen D. Riley

AFRO Sports Desk