Deshaun Watson is nearing the end of a special season—a season that for many, only comes around once in a lifetime. The equivalent of being "in the zone" in golf, Watson has put together a Jordan Speith type year that has another major left to be played.
This Saturday night Watson will have an anniversary, of sorts, when his Tigers face the North Carolina Tar Heels at 8 pm. It was only a year ago—against these same Tar Heels-- that the world was introduced to just how special Deshaun Watson was for the Clemson Tigers.
Watson finished that night with a school record six touchdown passes—breaking the previous record held by Tajh Boyd-- and throwing for 435 yards. After the game head coach Dabo Swinney, who had been berated by media pendant regarding the quarterback battle between Watson and incumbent Cole Stoudt, was asked whether or not Watson would be the starters the rest of the season to which he responded, "Did you not watch that game? Yeah, he's our guy. He's earned it."
Fast forward one year and those words could not ring more true--"He's earned it".
The ACC Offensive Player of the Year. The ACC Overall Player of the Year. Finalist for the Manning Award—given to the nations top quarterback. Finalist for the Walter Camp Player of the Year. The ACC leader in passing yardage (3,223 yards), touchdown passes (27) and passing efficiency (161.9). Watson's list of accolades is growing almost as fast as his lore at Clemson.
"If you look at any championship team out there, most of them have a great quarterback and leader," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday. "That's what we have. It's a huge advantage when you have the best player in the nation, and I believe he is that."
While the debate on who is the best player in the nation has yet to be determined by the Heisman voters, Watson can go a long way toward making his closing arguments Saturday night against another top-10 team in the Tar Heels.
For one of Watson's offensive coordinator's, Tony Elliott, he may not know what the criteria is for a player to win the Heisman Trophy but what he does know is who would get his vote.
"I don't know what the criteria is for the guys to make decisions, but I'm going to give him (Watson) my vote as the best player in the country," Elliott said. "He goes in week in and week out, he can run the football. He can beat you with his arm, and he makes good decisions."
With a much improved defense facing Watson this season at North Carolina the going is going to be much more difficult than last season—at least that is what North Carolina head coach Larry Fedora is hoping will be the case.
"He torched us for six touchdowns last year, probably had one of the best games of his career," Fedora told the media earlier this week. "But that was the 2014 team and we're a different football team."
Under first year defensive coordinator Gene Chizik—former Auburn head coach-- the Tar Heels are a better team defensively. Last season that Tar Heel gave up 497 yards per game and 39 points per game. This year the defense is giving up 394 yards per game and only 20.8 points per game.
While the awards and the accolades keep piling up for the sophomore quarterback Watson understands that this is what he has dreamed about his entire life. However, in this one game season—this pseudo-quarterfinal playoff match-up-- the dreams of Heisman Trophy of National Championship's will all fade away when the ball is snapped. When No.4 leads his Tigers onto the biggest stage of his young career.
"The moment for me has never been too big," Watson said. "I try not to make it big. It's (earning a spot in the playoffs) something I have been dreaming about and hoping for."