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Is Trevor Lawrence Underrated?

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Clemson's iconic quarterback, now a stunning 24-0 as a starter, is writing one of the most impressive and most unique legacies in college football history.

Trevor Lawrence has never been named an All-American and never been a Heisman Trophy finalist. He also has never lost. Clemson's iconic quarterback, now a stunning 24-0 as a starter, is writing one of the most impressive and most unique legacies in college football history. Ahead of another national championship game, Lawrence, smiling and smooth, has a story all his own.

Before Lawrence ever took his first college snap, the expectations were firmly in place. A five-star recruit and top quarterback prospect with the look and feel of a next-level prototype, pundits were talking about college stardom and professional opportunities while he was still in high school; the highest of expectations have been met and surpassed already. Lawrence, in the spotlight for years, has been the same throughout. His progression has been more than just paint-by-number, rather an absolute work of art.

With his true sophomore season still ongoing, Lawrence has an undefeated record, a national championship ring, a place in college football history and is the overwhelming favorite to be the number one overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, a projection made and maintained long ago. It's also worth noting that there is more to come.

Lawrence's freshman season was one without parallel, furthermore one for the absolute ages. In addition to leading Clemson to a national title, starring for the first modern team to go 15-0, his production was, right away, elite. In 2018, Lawrence, not taking over as the Tigers' starter until October, still finished in the national top ten with 30 touchdown passes and ended the year seventh in all of Power Five football with an impressive passer rating of 157.56.

Fittingly, Lawrence, calm and stoic, was at his best on the big stage in year one. He completed 69% of his passes 327 yards and three touchdowns versus Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl and 63% of his throws for 347 yards and three scores against Alabama in the national championship game, earning MVP honors in both outings; Clemson, in those two College Football Playoff triumphs over two of the biggest brands in the history of the game, scored a combined 74 points.

This season, Lawrence notably slots fifth nationally with 36 touchdown passes and sixth with a passer rating of 173.25 and that is with him having a relatively slow start to the year. Some numbers tracking Lawrence's in-season progression; after a 143.68 passer rating in the month of September, his passer rating was 183.09 in October and 199.08 for November. Lawrence, leading Clemson's charge down the home stretch, has 20 touchdowns and zero interceptions over his last seven games. As usual, he is peaking at the right time. 

Lawrence, this fall, is one of just seven P5 quarterbacks the last 20 years with 3,400 yards passing, 35 passing touchdowns, 500 yards rushing and eight rushing scores in a single season, joining Tajh Boyd, Robert Griffin III, Johnny Manziel, Marcus Mariota, Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson. Following in the footsteps of greatness, Lawrence is picking up the pace. 

Down 16 points, with the Tigers seemingly reeling against Ohio State in the Fiesta Bowl, Lawrence's poise and resiliency helped Clemson rally past the Buckeyes. With it looking like Ohio State might pull away, Lawrence, instead, looked comfortable and relaxed as always. Pressure mounting, he responded with a signature performance to remember: 259 passing yards and two touchdowns and a career-high 107 rushing yards and another score on the ground. In the contest's key moments, Lawrence's plays made the difference. 

Lawrence's consistency in profile and performance has paced the Tigers to another championship.

The face of a college football dynasty, yet, in some ways, still undervalued and underappreciated, Lawrence's legacy is simply as astounding and original as it gets. Perhaps there isn't as much of a "wow factor" with him because no point of relatively has ever been established; with Lawrence, there hasn't been any progression, just perfection. No ups and downs to frame all that he has done. Lawrence has been so great so fast, such success often gets taken for granted. 

The upcoming national championship game serves as case-and-point. While advancing to the last matchup of the season is a historically banner accomplishment for any player, with Lawrence, going back to before the start of the year, it was an expected consensus. For a quarterback who has never lost, more of the same, in an era of hot topics and constant news, is just a continuation.

Should Lawrence win yet another College Football Playoff, it will be something we have seen before and, quite frankly, something we anticipated. He, signing as the nation's number one overall prep prospect out of high school, came to Clemson hyped as a player capable of being the best; across the board, he has been. When the potential is such, sometimes the realization of it isn't fully appreciated.

All that Lawrence has done is completely unprecedented, but not necessarily unexpected. That paradigm frames all of his production.

To date, Lawrence has 6,711 passing yards and 66 passing touchdowns, 691 rushing yards and nine rushing scores; more importantly, he has two dozen wins. At this point, Lawrence's resume is the most impressive college football has ever seen. With a junior year awaiting, there is, somehow, still more to come. His introduction to 2020 will naturally come on college football's biggest stage.

Earlier in the season, Lawrence was critiqued for some initial inconsistency. Now he is one of college football's leading names once again. Lawrence, through it all, has remained steadfast and true. Clemson, correspondingly, has too.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports