He makes timely big plays, but he’s a Mississippi State quarterback wearing an LSU uniform.
But that just makes one, glaringly positive fact about his career even more jarring.
Say what you will about Jefferson, but he’s the one quarterback credited with two victories over Alabama in the Nick Saban era.
If Jefferson makes it three in Monday’s BCS Championship, well, he’ll make it three and lead LSU to a BCS championship. He’d make it two victories over Saban-era Alabama in one season.
Just let that sink in for a second, because one would think it would take a lot more quarterback than Jefferson to win twice against Alabama’s defenses the past five years.
It’s no given that Cam Newton could have done it. Last season’s Heisman Trophy winner and owner of one of the best seasons ever by a college quarterback had to rally Auburn from a 24-0 hole for a one-point win in his one crack at the Crimson Tide.
Florida’s Tim Tebow, one of college football’s most successful quarterbacks over a four-year span, played Saban’s Alabama teams in consecutive SEC Championships. He rejoiced after the first and cried after the second.
Matthew Stafford led Georgia to an overtime victory at Alabama in 2007. In 2008, Alabama blacked him out.
And while we’re name dropping, Arkansas’ Ryan Mallett was 0-2.
The list of quarterbacks who beat Sana’s Alabama teams just once list includes Tebow, Newton, Stafford, Florida State’s Xavier Lee, LSU’s Matt Flynn, Mississippi State’s Wesley Carroll, Louisiana-Monroe’s Kinsmon Lancaster, Auburn’s Brandon Cox, South Carolina’s Stephen Garcia and Utah’s Brian Johnson.
Six of those won against the team Saban inherited in 2007 — a team that at least fought off a comeback in relief by Houston’s Case Keenum.
The list of one-time winners against Saban’s Alabama teams includes three current NFL starters and a backup who looked good in Green Bay’s regular-season finale. Newton and Stafford were No. 1 overall draft picks.
And then there’s Jefferson --- yes, Jordan Jefferson --- and his 2-1 record against Alabama from 2009 on.
Caveat it all you want.
Yes, Jefferson has always had strong teams around him at LSU. So did Tebow, Stafford and Mallett, and Jefferson was a huge factor in both LSU victories over Alabama on his watch.
One of Jefferson’s victories came at LSU, but one came at Tuscaloosa. Since the start of the 2008 season, only Jefferson and Newton have won at Tuscaloosa.
Both LSU victories over Alabama on Jefferson’s watch involved games with huge stakes. A one-loss Alabama team was playing to keep its national title hopes alive in 2010, and he did it in the so-called “Game of the Century” this season.
That he gets a shot in Game of the Century II --- this time with the BCS title on the line --- forces an attempt to explain how an average SEC quarterback like Jefferson does it against Saban-era Alabama.
He did it with his hardly prolific arm in 2010, playing one of the best games of his career to that point. Breakdowns in Alabama’s secondary helped.
He did it with his legs in November, coming on in relief of Jarrett Lee and throwing a read-option curve at an Alabama defense that has issues against the option.
Quarterbacks that have had success against Saban’s Alabama defenses from 2008 on tend to be dual-threat types. Having a complement of running backs good enough to make some sort of option effective is a plus.
But one senses something deeper here, more than Xs and Os.
There’s something about Alabama that seems to bring out Jordan’s best, especially since the Tide’s 2009 defense hit him often and knocked him silly while beating LSU 24-15.
Jefferson doesn’t seem intimidated by Alabama, and the duress Alabama brings seems to focus him --- at least in spurts long enough to make big plays.
Maybe the answer is to play more of a read-and-react scheme against him. Make him hold the ball longer and think more, both in the passing and option games.
Whatever it takes, Alabama must find a way to solve the mystery of Jefferson’s success. As hard as it is to explain his 2-1 record against Saban-era Tide defenses, try explaining 3-1.
Joe Medley is The Star’s sports columnist. He can be reached at 256-235-3576 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter @jmedley_star.