No FBS player on earth has a chance of breaking Barry Sanders’ single-season college record of 238.9 rushing yards per game.
That baby shall remain in the books forever.
However, Sanders’ single-season mark of 2,628 rushing yards (circa 1988 with Oklahoma State) could be eclipsed sometime in the next five years, provided that prodigious runner has the relentless attitude of the famed Energizer Bunny … and plays on a College Football Playoff-bound team.
Enter LSU tailback Leonard Fournette.
If the Tigers’ opener against McNeese State hadn’t been canceled last year because of inclement weather, Fournette (1,953 rushing yards, 23 total touchdowns) would have easily crossed the 2,000-yard threshold; and with a little luck, the then-sophomore might have topped Alabama’s Derrick Henry (2,219 rushing) for the SEC rushing title.
Instead, Fournette (a potential top-5 pick in the 2017 NFL Draft assuming he leaves early) essentially has just one year left to achieve his ultimate dreams and carve out a college legacy for all time.
Luckily, Fournette’s individual and team goals go hand in hand.
For instance, even if Fournette has a monster campaign, averaging 190-plus yards and two touchdowns every Saturday, but LSU doesn’t win the SEC West title … the junior-to-be has no shot at sinking Sanders’ record. (It’s a numbers game.)
However, if Fournette can help the Tigers (loaded with playmaking veterans and NFL-caliber defenders) capture the SEC West crown, win the conference championship and advance to the finals of the four-team College Football Playoff … then he could realistically smash perhaps the greatest seasonal achievement of the last 50 years.
Here’s the numbers breakdown, in terms of Fournette possibly eclipsing Sanders’ mark of 2,628:
15 games: Average of 175.3 yards
14 games: Average of 187.7 yards
13 games: Average of 202.2 yards
12 games: Average of 219.1 yards
(In case you’re wondering … Sanders required only 11 games during his Heisman Trophy-winning season to reach 2,628 rushing yards.)
Of course, for Fournette to be extra motivated at every turn this fall, he’ll need a worthy adversary. Enter Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey, who amassed an absurd 2,019 rushing yards, 2,664 total yards and 13 touchdowns last season — highlighted by the versatile dissection of Iowa in the Rose Bowl (277 total yards and two scores).
McCaffrey’s West Coast presence automatically gives this upcoming Heisman race some phenomenal juice. It should also help Fournette realize that last year’s sublime highlights (listed below) might not be enough to outdistance McCaffrey in the end.
In that sense, it’s cool that Fournette and LSU have a narrow margin of error this fall. If the Tigers cannot beat the likes of Alabama, Texas A&M, Florida, Ole Miss and Wisconsin, among others, then nothing else really matters, legacy-wise.
FOURNETTE’S 2015 HIGHLIGHTS
**At least 150 rushing yards in his first seven outings.
**Nine total games of 150-plus rushing yards.
**Twelve outings of at least one touchdown (14 of 15 games with at least one touchdown, dating back to 2014).
**A remarkable average of 6.5 yards per carry.
**Rolling for five touchdowns (one receiving) in the bowl game (poor Texas Tech).
**Four games of 200-plus rushing yards (tying Alabama’s Henry, the national rushing champion).
**Averaging 163 rushing yards per game, a higher tally than McCaffrey (144.2 YPG), Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott (140 YPG), Oregon’s Royce Freeman (141.2 YPG) and Derrick Henry (148 YPG), the Crimson Tide’s second Heisman winner in history.
Jay Clemons, the 2015 national winner for “Sports Blog Of The Year” (Cynopsis Media), has previously written for SI.com, The National Football Post, Bleacher Report and Fox Sports.