Debating hypotheticals all week proved premature. Louisville traveled to Houston on a Thursday night. The Cougars, healthy again, ran up a 31-0 lead by halftime and held on for a 36-10 win.
Losing eliminates Louisville from College Football Playoff situation. The Cardinals now have a 10-2 ceiling. It would have been tough for them to get in at 11-1.
The question now will be how this loss affects the Heisman race. Lamar Jackson was a huge favorite entering this week, with 3/100 odds. His performance – 20/43 for 211 yards and a touchdown, 33 yards on 25 carries – was pedestrian. Though, facing constant pressure and getting sacked ten times didn’t help. Houston’s defense limited Jackson to passing and passing under extreme duress.
No player has stepped up as an auxiliary candidate; a primary reason oddsmakers have favored Jackson. The next two names are Clemson QB Deshaun Watson (underwhelming season) and Michigan all-purpose man Jabrill Peppers (great story, not as great of an impact in B1G play). The players with the best arguments are defensive linemen, who tend not to earn consideration.
The Heisman Trophy is an award defined by grand moments in big games late in the season. Jackson missed his last, best opportunity for a statement to voters who have experienced him via highlights for most of the season. It’s not clear who could catch Jackson this late, but he left the door open.
One thing certain: this was a great night for Tom Herman’s stock and, consequently, a not so great night for Charlie Strong hanging on at Texas.