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Column: Louisville’s Lamar Jackson has been impressive, but he’s not impressed

Lamar Jackson
Quarterback Lamar Jackson (8) celebrates after Louisville’s dismantling of Florida State on Saturday.
(Andy Lyons / Getty Images)

There might be only one person in the country who is not thoroughly impressed with Lamar Jackson.

And that would be Lamar Jackson.

After guiding Louisville to a leave-no-doubts 63-20 victory over Florida State, a game in which he rushed for four touchdowns and passed for another, the sophomore quarterback was asked to grade his performance.

“Have to be a D,” he said. “I threw an interception on the goal line. I think it was seven incomplete passes.”

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It takes some nitpicking to criticize what the Cardinals and their breakout star have done through the early weeks of this college football season.

Saturday’s win vaulted them to No. 3 in the Associated Press poll, up 16 spots from where they stood just a month ago. It also made their path to the College Football Playoff a lot clearer.

“Louisville is a very good football team,” Florida State Coach Jimbo Fisher said. “They are dynamic and they’ve got good playmakers.”

When the Cardinals joined the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2014, they knew the road to success ran directly through the Seminoles and Clemson. Their first two seasons, they went 0-4 against the ACC’s top dogs.

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“You pick out a few games each year where you’re going to focus on over the winter, over the spring and summer, and make sure that you get well-prepared for it,” Coach Bobby Petrino said.

In his second go-round at Louisville — the latest stop in a soap opera-worthy career — Petrino has built a sturdy defense, especially up front, to complement an explosive offense.

With No. 5 Clemson and No. 6 Houston still ahead, Louisville has more than enough red meat on the schedule to earn a CFP spot. The Cardinals could conceivably lose one of those games and still finish in the top four.

It helps to have Jackson at the helm.

The Florida native has been a true dual threat, rushing for 10 touchdowns and passing for eight in the first three games. He also seems to have the attitude to survive the season — at least he’s saying the right things.

“Stay humble and stay calm,” he said. “Everything is calm to me.”

His team wasn’t the only one to make a move in the polls this week. Miami’s win over small but dangerous Appalachian State bumped the Hurricanes 10 spots to No. 15. Arkansas rose seven spots to No. 17.

Moving in the other direction, Florida State fell 11 spots to No. 13 and Texas, an early-season Cinderella, slipped to No. 21 after a wild, controversial 50-43 loss at California.

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But no one has fallen further — or faster — than Oklahoma.

The Sooners began the season at No. 3 with thoughts of contending for a national championship. But that has been a dangerous thing in Norman, Okla., where big expectations have brought disappointment in recent years.

This time around, Oklahoma opened with an upset loss to Houston and hit another glitch on Saturday when  the Sooners were swamped by then-No. 3 Ohio State, a loss that dropped them to No. 25 on Sunday.

While the Buckeyes have shown their worth — rejuvenated after losing a big chunk of the team to last spring’s NFL Draft — there was a hint of doom in Oklahoma Coach Bob Stoops’ postgame comments.

“Our football team — I take responsibility — was not near good enough in a big game,” Stoops said. “Sorry to disappoint the fans.”

As a young team with too many holes on defense, the Sooners were possibly — make that certainly — overrated in the summer, mainly on the strength of making last season’s playoff.

Quarterback Baker Mayfield has not been able to make up the difference, despite completing 65% of his passes for seven touchdowns against two interceptions.

“I have been trying to work on it and have been trying to get better and better, but it just goes to show that in big games like that I haven’t played well,” he said after the Ohio State loss. “I let this team down.”

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Mayfield also suffered another dent in his standing as a Heisman Trophy favorite. His spot near the top of the list has now been taken by that other quarterback, the one at Louisville.

Jackson’s performance against Charlotte in the season opener, when he scored eight first-half touchdowns, was slightly disregarded because of the competition. Five touchdowns against Florida State are a different matter.

“He can run it, he can throw it,” Fisher said. “I mean, he’s just a really good football player.”

Michael Vick added to the chorus of accolades by tweeting on Saturday: “Lamar Jackson 5x better than what I was at V-Tech … Enough said!”

Eighteen touchdowns put Jackson on pace to score 72 by the close of the regular season, which would be a record. If he comes even close to that total, Louisville figures to be in the playoff picture.

And he might just give himself a decent grade.

david.wharton@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATimesWharton


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