BATON ROUGE, La. — Leonard Fournette has nothing left to prove. He’s going to be a first-round pick. There’s no sense in playing anymore. He should take the bowl game off and ride off into the LSU football sunset alongside Billy Cannon and Tyrann Mathieu and all the other Tiger legends.
I’m sure you’ve heard that argument over the past couple of weeks. And it makes sense. But is it a good argument?
Over the past couple of days, I’ve been pondering this question. Given how much of Fournette’s 2016 season was spent on the injury table, I get why people believe he should sit out. There’s no sense in re-aggravating a nagging injury six weeks before the biggest job interview of his life.
But I don’t get the argument that Fournette should rest since he’s already a guaranteed first-round pick. To me, it seems like a good bowl game would go a long way to raise Fournette’s draft stock back into the top-10 range. Hindsight bias dictates that we often remember best the last thing we saw. So, a good topper to Fournette’s already-impressive college career would theoretically benefit him.
But enough of talking about this in theory. Dating back to 2010, there have been 10 running backs picked in the first round of the NFL Draft. And, in most cases, their bowl performances reaffirmed their statuses as elite prospects. And in the few cases where a player didn’t perform well, he still snuck in to the back end of the first round.
Here’s a breakdown of how these backs did in their final games as collegians:
|Ezekiel Elliott (2015)||27 carries||149 yards||4 TDs|
|Todd Gurley (2014)||DNP||DNP||DNP|
|Melvin Gordon (2014)||34 carries||251 yards||3 TDs|
|Trent Richardson (2011)||20 carries||96 yards||1 TD|
|Doug Martin (2011)||31 carries||151 yards||2* TDs|
|David Wilson (2011)||24 carries||82 yards||N/A|
|Mark Ingram (2010)||12 carries||59 yards||2 TDs|
|C.J. Spiller (2009)||15 carries||67 yards||1 TD|
|Ryan Mathews (2009)||31 carries||144 yards||2 TDs|
|Jahvid Best (2009)||DNP||DNP||DNP|
* one touchdown was scored on a kick return
With the exceptions of Todd Gurley and Jahvid Best, who both missed their team’s bowls with injuries, all 10 of these guys fared well in their final bowl games. It can be argued that guys like Doug Martin and Ryan Mathews played their way into being first-round picks with their bowl performances.
And Melvin Gordon and Ezekiel Elliott, two guys more comparable to Fournette, solidified their positions as first-15 type guys with excellent bowl games.
So, if Elliott, who — hot take — was a better prospect out of college than Fournette is, didn’t take off his bowl game, neither should Fournette. Unless, of course, there’s an injury. But if he’s healthy, Fournette sure better play.
Because bowls do matter. Just look at the numbers.
Four Friday Feelings
It there are two things that I love, they’re bizarrely precise pop culture references and guessing how other people are feeling. So, today, it’s time for a Pop Culture Edition of Four Friday Feelings.
You know the drill. I name a player or coach on the LSU football team. I guess how he’s feeling. Then I justify my answer. Simple enough. Let’s do it.
Ed Orgeron is feeling … like he’ll be just fine
In the season seven episode of Seinfeld titled “The Rye,” Jerry and Elaine have a fight about how everything always seems to work out for Jerry. And that’s how the last year of Ed Orgeron’s life has gone. Just look at this week: He hired his top candidate for offensive coordinator, he convinced Christian LaCouture to return for a fifth season and he got Myles Brennan to reaffirm his commitment to LSU. Things keep going Ed’s way. And like Jerry, he’ll be just fine.
Arden Key feels like … the shortest tall guy
There’s a running gag in “How I Met Your Mother” where Jason Segel’s character Marshall, who is 6-foot-4, is considered the runt of his family by his even taller brothers. That’s the position Arden Key is in right now. Key tweeted up a scorned storm (below) this week when he lamented about not being on the All-SEC team.
Arden Key not on the All American team! ??? say no more ??
— Arden Key (@ArdenKey49) December 13, 2016
But the problem is, who would you bump? Alabama’s Jonathan Allen, Texas A&M’s Myles Garrett and Tennessee’s Derek Barnett might all be top 5 picks this year. So, even if Key is one of the five-best pass rushers in America, he’s stuck behind the tallest brothers a 6-foot-4 guy could have.
Christian LaCouture is feeling … like Josh Baskin 10 minutes later
Have you ever wondered what kind of life Josh Baskin grew up to have? You know, Tom Hanks’ character from Big. Sure, I know the moral of the story is that you should be content to be young, because you won’t be young forever. But it’s gotta be pretty weird going back to being a 12-year-old after spending a couple of months as a 30-year-old.
And that’s how LaCouture has to be feeling right now. After spending the year as a coach and all-but deciding to move on from college football, LaCouture announced on Thursday he’ll be coming back for a second senior year. That’s good for the LSU football team, but mentally that has Baskin’s Syndrome written all over it.
Steve Ensminger is feeling … like Andy Bernard in that bad season of The Office
People don’t talk about Season 8 of The Office often. That’s mostly because it was awful. But one of the few bright spots was an episode called “Angry Andy,” where Andy comes back from Florida to find he’s been replaced as regional manager and demoted back to his old job.
When Steve Ensminger comes back from Florida in two weeks, that’ll be his exact predicament. Hopefully, Ensminger doesn’t put his fist through any drywall.
You are who you play like: Louisville edition
The best way to prepare for an opponent you’ve never played before is to compare that opponent to a well-known team you can easily study. That’s right, it’s time for another installment of “You are who you play like,” and this time it’s about the 2016 Louisville Cardinals.
According to numberFire’s “similar teams” statistic, the closest match to Louisville, with 95 percent similarity, is the 2013 Ohio State Buckeyes, the team before the team that went on to win the national championship.
So, how exactly do these teams match up? Well, points per game is an obvious similarity. Those Buckeyes averaged 45.5 points per game, and this Louisville team puts up 45.3 per. But beyond that, one striking similarity is the way the teams relied on their quarterbacks.
Led by 2013 Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year Braxton Miller, Ohio State’s offense gained 7.15 yards per play. And much of that belonged to Miller. Between rushes and passes, 42.5 percent of Ohio State’s plays funneled through Miller’s hands.
Louisville took that concept and cranked it into overdrive. Louisville has carried out almost 200 fewer plays that Ohio State did, but Jackson has already rushed or thrown the ball on 190 more plays than Miller did, accounting for 68.5 percent of Louisville’s touches and 73.5 percent of the Cardinals’ offense.
Another similarity the two teams share is in rush defense. Louisville has the No. 4 run defense in college football, allowing just 2.99 yards per carry. Ohio State’s defense was similarly stout, allowing 3.29 yards per carry against a schedule that included power-run teams like Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State.
What can I do with my life without LSU football?
Aside from a couple of stray bowl games, there really isn’t much to do this weekend from a college football perspective? So, what should you do?
If you’re in the Baton Rouge area, may I suggest consulting this calendar of events compiled by The Advocate. Some of the highlights from within the 50-mile radius of downtown Baton Rouge include Snacks with Santa, an 80s Hip Hip Hooray, two performances of the Nutcracker and a concert by the one-and-only Eddie Money.
Be sure to check out some of these events. And tell the people at the door that the Bayou Bengal Briefing sent you. They won’t know what you’re talking about, but it’ll be a nice conversation starter.
Your weekly non-revenue sports primer
If going out and seeing people in public isn’t your thing, there are still sports you can watch this weekend. Three LSU teams will take the court/pool between Friday and Sunday, and you can follow along with all of them.
Here’s a guide:
- The LSU men’s basketball team takes on Texas Southern Saturday at 5 p.m. CT from the Pete Maravich Assembly Center. This will be the Tigers’ first time taking the court since a near loss to N.C. Central on Tuesday, and the team will undoubtedly be motivated by that. About the game, LSU coach Johnny Jones said: “We certainly know that we’ll have to be prepared. They’re big, strong and quick. They have really good guard play and have one of the leading rebounders, if not the leading rebounder, in the nation. Our preparedness will have to be one of readiness for a really tough team.”
- The women’s basketball team will take the court Sunday against UNC in Myrtle Beach, S.C., at 2 p.m. The Tigers are 8-2 on the season, with their only losses being to Kansas State and the otherwise-unbeatable UConn Huskies.
- LSU swimming and diving will head to Auburn for the Auburn Diving Invitational this weekend. The competition begins Saturday and lasts through Monday.
LSU in the NBA
LSU has seven players active in NBA competition this season. Here’s a rundown on how those former Tigers are faring almost two months into the NBA season:
|Player||Games Played||Minutes Per Game||PPG||APG||RPG||PER|
|Justin Hamilton (BKN)||21||21.4||6.8||0.9||4.1||11.2|
|Garrett Temple (SAC)||25||22.5||6.7||1.8||2.3||12.3|
|Marcus Thornton (WAS)||23||18.2||6.9||1.3||2.4||11.0|
|Jarell Martin (MEM)||26||15.4||4.8||0.2||4.5||8.9|
|Brandon Bass (LAC)||13||9.1||3.3||0.5||1.5||13.1|
|Jordan Mickey (BOS)||9||7.6||2.4||0.3||1.9||10.1|
|Tim Quarterman (POR)||8||3.1||2.0||0.5||0.5||37.7|
Today in made-up holidays
According to the fine folks over at NationalDayCalendar.com, Friday is National Underdog Day. Finally, a national day that’s actually about sports. Now, I don’t have to be as creative.
When looking at the Citrus Bowl matchup between Louisville and the LSU football team, one thing that strikes me is that these teams are both well-considered. In their last 10 games against FBS opponents, Louisville has not once been considered the underdog, and LSU was only ranked as the underdog against Alabama.
Still, LSU and Louisville have combined to lose seven of these games. Sure, four of those losses are to teams in the College Football Playoff and six are to teams that spent most of the year ranked. But that doesn’t defend the fact that these teams consistently lose games they are expected to win.
Or does it?
Five of those seven losses came in one-score games. And as I’ve discussed multiple times in past Bayou Bengal Briefings, teams shouldn’t be blamed for one-score losses. More often than not, luck plays a bigger factor in those games than either team does.
Since so many of those losses were close, these teams aren’t overrated. They might just be unlucky. And that adds up, especially when Louisville boasts arguably the NCAA’s most productive offense and LSU boasts arguably the NCAA’s most talented defense.
That said, someone has to be the underdog when these teams play. And it’s looking like that team is going to be Louisville. As I write this, LSU is favored to win by 3.5 points, up 1.0 points from this time last week.
Look, I didn’t say you have to root for the underdog. It’s just National Underdog Day. So, be aware that LSU is not the underdog. And probably won’t be until it plays Alabama again next year.