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Beware of the September Heisman

Through the first four weeks of the 2016 season, Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson averaged 464 yards per game while scoring 25 total touchdowns.  Tim Haag/GOCARDS.COM

You’d be hard-pressed to find a more dynamic athlete in college football right now than Louisville’s Lamar Jackson.

The sophomore quarterback sensation has seized the country’s attention, with most touting him as the Heisman favorite after just two quarters in 2016.

And with a furious September, the hype has only grown.

But when you look at the numbers from these “September Heismans,” Jackson’s chances of gaining the distinction of college football’s top player don’t look promising.

Jackson burst onto the scene in 2016 with an eight-touchdown performance (six passing, two rushing) in the first half of the Cardinals’ season-opener against Charlotte.

He followed that up — somehow — amassing an ACC-record 611 total yards of offense and another five touchdowns against Syracuse.

Through the first four weeks of the season, Jackson totaled 1,856 yards of total offense — averaging 464 yards per game — and scored 25 total touchdowns.

At the end of September, there was just one FBS program — other than his own — that scored more offensive touchdowns than him.

Jackson, the epitome of a dual-threat quarterback, is on pace to eclipse the 20-touchdown mark in passing as well as rushing by Week 8. It’s a feat only four players have accomplished — and it took them a full season.

He is the clear favorite, as of now, after an outstanding start to the season.

But, to be honest, we’ve seen it before — five times in the last six years, to be specific.

It happened at Michigan in 2010 when dual-threat quarterback Denard Robinson rushed for 688 yards and six touchdowns in September only to lose six of his next eight games down the stretch.

Eventual Heisman winner: Auburn quarterback Cam Newton

In 2012, West Virginia’s Geno Smith began the season with 20 touchdowns and no interceptions, including a 656-yard, eight-touchdown performance in a Week 4 shootout against Baylor.

Smith would end up throwing five interceptions during WVU’s five-game losing streak — granted he did throw 42 touchdown passes on the season.

Eventual Heisman winner: Texas A&M quarterback Johnny Manziel.

The list goes on: Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater’s 14 September touchdowns before losing to unranked UCF, derailing his season; Texas A&M quarterback Kenny Hill averaging 349 passing yards per game with 17 September touchdowns, but finishing the year throwing only six more before getting suspended.

Quarterbacks Jameis Winston (FSU) and Marcus Mariota (Oregon) would take home the crown.

And then there was last season, when it looked like LSU running back Leonard Fournette was the second coming of Bo Jackson, averaging 210 yards per game on a near-unstoppable tear to start the season. 

But Fournette was not exempt. He averaged just 97 yards per game in November as his Tigers went 1-3, handing off the Heisman to Alabama’s Derrick Henry.

It’s happened before and it can happen again.

The biggest difference is how early people have jumped on Jackson. No longer do writers and fans take a long hard look at players before tossing their names into contention for college football immortality.

With two seven-plus touchdown performances and four 400-plus yard games to his name, they may be right. 

The man is a poised, athletic, freakish athlete with nimble feet and a pinpoint arm.

But at this point in the season, we just don’t know.