The conference of quarterbacks showcases two of its best this Saturday on ASN — Rice's Driphus Jackson and Louisiana Tech's Jeff Driskel.
Jackson, one of six Conference USA quarterbacks to pass for more than 2,500 yards last season, leads the Owls against Wagner at 3:30 p.m. ET in Houston.
Driskel, the former Florida quarterback, makes his debut for Louisiana Tech at 7:30 p.m. ET against Southern University in Ruston, La.
Jackson passed for 2,842 yards and 24 touchdowns in his first season as starter, totals surpassed only by Chase Clement (2007-08) and Tommy Kramer (1976) in school history. He also passed for 318 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-6 victory against Fresno State in the Hawaii Bowl.
"We can't really get caught up in stats," Jackson said. "Wins is what gives you the edge."
Jackson also rushed for 401 yards and one touchdown in leading Rice to an 8-5 season and a school-record third consecutive bowl game after an 0-3 start. He said he tries to model his game after Michael Vick, Tyrod Taylor and Russell Wilson. He also hopes to follow them into the NFL.
"Oh, definitely," Jackson said. "I try not to put that kind of pressure on myself. ... I'm just going to go out there and do what I know how to do ... let the chips fall where they may."
That's the approach Driskel is taking at Louisiana Tech, the preseason pick to repeat as Conference USA West Division champions. He replaces Cody Sokol, who passed for 3,436 yards and 30 touchdowns last season. Driskel, who passed for 3,411 yards and 23 touchdowns with 20 interceptions in his 29-game Florida career, is also looking to put up big numbers this season.
So far, Bulldogs head coach Skip Holtz has been impressed so far. "Very humble, hard working, he's earned this team's respect," Holtz said. "He's got an awful lot of talent and ability, but I've really been impressed with how he's handled himself as a young man."
Driskel also has the respect of other conference coaches.
"You never know when someone transfers how they fit in," said Florida International's Ron Turner. "I do know one thing. He's a very good player. I anticipate him to do well."
Driskel is not concerned with expectations, a lesson he learned in four seasons with the Gators. That is Driskel's advice for his brother Jason, a freshman quarterback at conference-rival Florida Atlantic.
"Just have fun with it," he said. "Be serious about it, but at the end of the day, don't let your identity be found in football."
On the cover: Rice's Driphus Jackson and Louisiana Tech's Jeff Driskel open the season Saturday on ASN with high expectations. (Photos courtesy of Rice Athletics and Louisiana Tech Athletics).
Above: Video produced by Alex Autem/ASN