The Alabama defense can stop Heisman Trophy campaigns the way nasty secrets can end presidential campaigns. This was once again proven true on Saturday as Leonard Fournette came into Bryant-Denny Stadium as the leading contender for the award, but left the building later that night as just another guy in the mix.
The mere fact that Fournette could still be considered a Heisman contender at all after posting 19 carries for only 31 yards against Alabama speaks to how successful he had been up until that point. His previous low for rushing yards this season had been 150. Yet Alabama’s dominant front seven is clearly of a caliber higher than anything LSU had faced this year.
Meanwhile, as the Crimson Tide defense was ransacking the LSU offense, Alabama’s offense was also introducing the world to another SEC running back who’d like an invite to the Heisman ceremony in New York City.
Derrick Henry would certainly appear worthy of that.
For a 14th consecutive game Henry scored a touchdown, and on this night he actually scored three. He also contributed more than 200 yards rushing as well. But his most significant feat of all may be this: Henry convinced Lane Kiffin, a coach notorious for his love of the forward pass, to at least flirt with the idea of making the Crimson Tide a run-first offense.
Henry averaged only 17 carries over Alabama’s first four games. However, in the Crimson Tide’s last five games, Henry is averaging 30 carries.
This increased reliance on Henry to carry the offensive load has also coincided with Alabama’s rise in the polls. Alabama was ranked just 13th by the AP Poll after the first four games, but it was ranked fourth by the Playoff selection committee last week, and will presumably be ranked even higher this week.
In other words: As Henry runs, Alabama wins.
So does all of this equal front-runner status for the Heisman Trophy? Probably not yet. The competition for the award has been heating up over the last couple of weeks even beyond what has happened in the SEC.
Deshaun Watson combined for more than 400 yards of offense on Saturday as his Clemson Tigers got a high-profile win over Florida State. Baylor’s Corey Coleman had more than 200 yards receiving on Thursday against Kansas State, and even though TCU lost to Oklahoma State on Saturday, it’s still too early to count out Horned Frogs quarterback Trevone Boykin from making his case to win the Heisman.
However, there is no doubt Derrick Henry made a big statement against LSU. He is clearly the catalyst for an Alabama squad that looks the part of a Playoff team. And as the Crimson Tide continue to rack up wins, it isn’t just the Playoff selection committee that will notice. It’s likely that Heisman Trophy voters are paying attention as well.