BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels has two chances left to show why a quarterback on a team with three losses and virtually no hope of challenging for a national title deserves the Heisman Trophy.
The first of those comes Saturday night in Death Valley when the 15th-ranked Tigers (7-3, No. 15 CFP) host Georgia State (6-4).
Second-year LSU coach Brian Kelly this week called Daniels “clearly a frontrunner for the Heisman Trophy,” adding, "He’s the most exciting football player individually in the country.”
Daniels not only has gaudy statistics, but has accumulated them in spectacular fashion, be it with deep throws down field or long, weaving scoring runs.
In a 52-35 victory over Florida last week, Daniels posted an SEC-record 606 total yards (234 rushing, 372 passing), highlighted by his touchdown runs of 85 and 51 yards and his 37-yard scoring pass to Brian Thomas. That performance made Daniels the first player in Football Bowl Subdivision history with at least 350 yards passing and 200 yards rushing in a game.
Daniels now leads the nation in total offense (408.2 yards per game), TDs passing (30) and yards rushing by a QB (914). He’s No. 2 nationally in TDs responsible for (38) and yards passing per game (316.4).
After Daniels' historic output against the Gators last weekend, Kelly asserted that if Daniels isn't a leading Heisman candidate, "then maybe the Heisman is not really for the best player.”
One person who seemingly needs no convincing is Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott, who this week labeled Daniels “the best player in college football.”
“I don’t think there’s any question,” added Elliot, who recalled coaching against another current Heisman hopeful, Oregon QB Bo Nix.
“We played Bo Nix when he was at Auburn and they benched him,” said Elliot, who began chuckling as he spoke wishfully about defending Daniels. "We’re going to go see what this guy’s got and hopefully we can get him benched, too.”
Daniels could go to the bench early for another reason.
LSU is listed as a 31 1/2-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. With Texas A&M coming to Baton Rouge for the regular season finale on Thanksgiving weekend, it would be wise to rest Daniels if the Tigers build a big early lead against the Panthers, who are coming off a 42-14 loss to Appalachian State.
LSU's Malik Nabers will look to build his resume for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the nation's top receiver. The semifinalists for the award are scheduled to be announced Nov. 20.
Nabers has been Daniels' top target this season with 72 receptions for 1,284 yards and 10 TDs. Nabers' yardage total leads the nation and his TD total isn't too far behind that of teammate Brian Thomas, whose 13 TDs rank first nationally.
Although Georgia State is coming off back-to-back four-touchdown losses, Elliot is hopeful about ending the season on a positive note, particularly in light of the fact that the Panthers are already bowl eligible.
“We’ve solidified postseason play. We’ve got a lot to look forward to. It’s not all doom and gloom,” Elliot said.
LSU running back Noah Cain has gotten far less work this season than last because of the arrival of Notre Dame transfer Logan Diggs. But Diggs missed last week's game with an upper body injury and Kelly labeled him “questionable” earlier this week. Also out at running back is John Emery Jr., who had a season-ending knee injury against Florida. So, Cain could get a chance to build on his 27 rushes for 118 yards and three TDs this season.
Although this will be the first meeting between Georgia State and LSU, Elliott has coached at LSU four times.
He did so twice as an assistant coach at Appalachian State in 2005 and 2008, and twice as an assistant at South Carolina in 2012 and 2015.
Following the Gamecocks’ 45-24 loss in 2015 — in a game that was moved to Baton Rouge because of flooding in Columbia, South Carolina — Steve Spurrier stepped down as head coach, and Elliott took over as the interim head coach for the final six games of the season.
AP Sports Writer Paul Newberry in Atlanta contributed to this report.
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