College football matchups, Week 3: Lamar Jackson must be better vs. Clemson

Lamar Jackson is the best player in the country.

He could be better.

When Louisville hosts Clemson Saturday in a game that is getting bigger by the minute, watch what the Cardinals quarterback doesn't do: throw it way, take a sack. At least not often enough. 

In winning the Heisman Trophy, Jackson committed 14 turnovers last season, an average of more than one per game. There were eight teams that didn't turn it over that much. A forgettable four-turnover day against Kentucky may have cost the Cardinals a New Year's Six berth.

So far this season, Jackson has lost one fumble (vs. Purdue), giving him 15 turnovers in the 15 games since the beginning of last season. That part of his game has to be cleaned up before Louisville takes the next step.

Sure, some of that -- perhaps a lot of it -- is on a questionable offensive line. But a lot of 18- to 22-year-old males think they can do anything. It's a dude thing, enhanced by active glands and a coming-of-age testosterone cocktail.

L-Jax is no different. It's why we love him. It's also why he can be better. You won't read a fancy breakdown from an NFL scout or advanced analytics here.

It's called decision-making. There will be times against Clemson when Jackson will need to tuck it and fall, run out of bounds, throw it away. Do Not Force It against what might be the best defensive front in the game at the moment.

As amazing as Jackson was last year plying at Clemson, he might need to be better Saturday night. The stakes couldn't be higher. Considering a wounded quarterback at Florida State, the winner just might rule the ACC.

If Jackson can take care of the little things, Louisville will be in line to win the big thing. 

1. Defense travels well: We know this because, well, it usually does. That means Clemson packed efficiently for this trip carrying 11 sacks and 19 tackles for loss in the overhead. All but five of those TFLs came last week against Auburn. The opponent is being tackled behind the line once every 10.5 snaps. This will be a chess match for Clemson defensive coordinator Brent Venables, an active, monstrous D against the game's best player. This could be the game of the year.

2. This time, Texas-USC is for real: CBS Sports can confirm Texas actually beat USC in the teams' last meeting 11 years ago. That actually became a point of contention this week. In essence, one of the greatest games ever played in the 2006 BCS Championship Game was never played in the eyes of Big Brother in Indianapolis, Indiana. This one will count, at least for now. A Coliseum sellout crowd will watch two legendary programs with different outlooks. Texas is trying to get back to relevancy. USC is trying to get to the playoff.

The Trojans seemed to have showed us who they are last week with a dominating win over Stanford. Tom Herman is trying to decide between Shane Buechele (injury) and Sam Ehlinger (possible freshman replacement) as his quarterback. In the last Big 12 nonconference game left of substance, it would help if the Longhorns won. While we count down to game time, here is an oral history of that 2006 game. It really, really was played.

3. Game on in The Swamp: Our thoughts go out to Gainesville, Florida and UF, which is able to stage the Tennessee game in the wake of Hurricane Irma. It's also hard to form any cogent thoughts on Vols-Gators.

Not sure if Florida had more yards gained or suspended players against Michigan. There already has been a motion for Steve Spurrier to start calling plays. Butch Jones needs to a) ditch the trash can and b) drive the meek Florida offense right into a ditch. Tennessee is clearly better offensively. If the Vols can get to 10 points, that might be enough. Seriously.

4. Orgeron's decade-old goose-egg: Ed Orgeron is looking for his first career SEC road win at Mississippi State.* (*As a full-time head coach to start a season. He was 0-12 on the road in the SEC in his three years at Ole Miss. We're not counting his wins at Arkansas and Texas A&M last season stepping in for Les Miles.)

This is a faceoff between two defensive superstars. LSU's Arden Key makes his season debut for the Tigers. Mississippi State's Jeffrey Simmons was SEC defensive player of the week after scoring twice. Simmons blocked a PAT, a punt (returned for a TD) and returned a fumble 90 yards for a score.

5. Ohio State begins its rehab: After a depressing loss to Oklahoma, the Buckeyes probably won't lose in the next three weeks against Army, UNLV and Rutgers. But there is lots of intrigue beginning this week against the Black Knights. Can J.T. Barrett hold onto the job? Will the defensive line get back to being dominant? We won't know the true answer to these questions until Oct. 7 when Ohio State hosts Maryland.

6. Catholics vs. Catholics: Two years ago, defensive coordinator Don Brown had the nation's No. 1 defense for a Boston College team that went 0-8 in the ACC. This is great news for Michigan, where Brown is now employed. Not so much for the current BC where Steve Addazio needs to at least keep it close against Notre Dame in one of the Irish's quasi-ACC conference games. That same season two years ago BC made history by going a combined 0-26 in football and basketball conference games.

7. Championship of Texas: Baylor is 0-2. Texas is off to a slow start. Aggies are hot-seat watching. Look who is off to 2-0 starts: TCU and SMU. The winner gets bragging rights in the Iron Skillet game and will have the state's best FBS record.

8. Quick kicks: If San Diego State is able to get past Stanford at home in one of the last games played late Saturday, the Aztecs just might become the Group of Five leader in the clubhouse … Good on Army's Jeff Monken, who received an extension this week. The Knights have won five in a row for the first time in 21 years … Did you know Texas athletic director Mike Perrin played in the Longhorns last visit to the Coliseum back in 1967? Just ask him. Stored on his phone is a picture of him attempting to tackle O.J. Simpson. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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