BATON ROUGE, La. — Leonard Fournette learned something about himself after setting a career high and breaking an LSU single-game record with 284 yards against Mississippi on Saturday night.
“I’m out of shape,” he said.
The Tigers star missed a month of action after aggravating an offseason ankle injury, but he made his return to the field look easy, racking up 249 yards and 3 scores on his first 7 carries.
His big night not only ensured his place in the LSU record book, but vaulted him four spots on the SEC’s all-time rushing list.
Among those he passed: Last year’s Heisman winner, Derrick Henry.
|1. Herschel Walker||UGA (’80-’82)||5,259|
|2. Darren McFadden||Arkansas (’05-’07)||4,590|
|3. Kevin Faulk||LSU (’95-’98)||4,557|
|4. Bo Jackson||Auburn (’82-’85)||4,303|
|5. Errict Rhett||Florida (’89-’93)||4,163|
|6. Dalton Hilliard||LSU (’82-’85)||4,050|
|7. Charles Alexander||LSU (’75-’78)||4,035|
|8. Anthony Dixon||MSU (’06-’09)||3,994|
|9. Emmitt Smith||Florida (’87-’89)||3,928|
|10. Sonny Collins||Kentucky (’72-’75)||3,835|
|11. Cadillac Williams||Auburn (’01-’04)||3,831|
|12. Alex Collins||Arkansas (’13-’15)||3,703|
|13. Leonard Fournette||LSU (’14-’16)||3,657|
|14. Derrick Henry||Alabama (’13-’15)||3,591|
|15. Shaun Alexander||Alabama (’96-’99)||3,565|
Fournette is averaging 167.5 yards per game this season. On his career, he’s averaged 126.1 yards per game. If he matches the former over the final five games (including LSU’s bowl game), Fournette will pass Bo Jackson for fourth all-time at 4,494 yards.
Even if he only matches his career average in those games, he’ll cross the 4,000-yard mark and come within 16 yards of Jackson’s career total.
The key is health. Fournette’s ankle looked fine against Ole Miss, but his violent running style comes with obvious risks (granted, defenders are much more likely to fold when No. 7 comes calling).
Leonard Fournette is like putting a #7 jersey on a mack truckhttps://t.co/Lf1wb9hcSp
— Uncle Rooney (@UncleRooney_) October 23, 2016
Those worried about him sitting out to protect his NFL draft stock don’t need to fret, though.
“When you really love football, it’s not about sitting out,” he said after the win. “I love competing. I love going out there with Jamal Adams, guys like that, each and every day. I feed off them. When I was hurt, on the sidelines watching practice, I was like, ‘I gotta get better.'”
That mindset allowed the “out of shape” running back to step back on the field and not only pick up where he left off, but take his performance to a higher statistical level than any LSU runner had ever done.
Watch out, Bo.
Ohio State “L” opens the door
I was standing on the field at Tiger Stadium when my editor messaged me: “Ohio State is going to lose!”
There are a few truly shocking results in college football every year, and the No. 2-ranked Buckeyes’ loss at unranked Penn State — Urban Meyer’s first “L” on the road as OSU coach — qualified.
It also ensured that the College Football Playoff picture will not be as rosy for the Big Ten. Instead of a simple “double up” scenario in which undefeated Ohio State and undefeated Michigan would play for a home playoff spot — with the loser likely also potentially getting in — the Big Ten will find it much tougher to place two teams in the field, no matter who wins the game.
That means the odds of two ACC teams in the field just went up, and Texas A&M’s somewhat long odds are now better.
We’re sure to see another big upset or two (maybe Utah over Washington this coming Saturday?), but the playoff field figures to be made up of four of the following six teams: Alabama, Michigan, Clemson, Washington, Louisville and Ohio State.
(If you have particularly strong faith in Baylor, West Virginia or Nebraska, we don’t see eye to eye. And while A&M is still alive, Aggies fans are better off taking a week-by-week approach after this weekend’s big loss.)
Here’s my prediction:
- No. 1 Alabama vs. No. 4 Louisville
- No. 2 Ohio State vs. No. 3 Clemson
Alabama wins out. Clemson loses at Florida State this coming Saturday but still wins the ACC title. One-loss Louisville watches championship weekend at home. Ohio State beats Michigan by two touchdowns at home and then wins the Big Ten title to jump over both ACC teams. The committee chooses Louisville over Michigan for the final spot. Jim Harbaugh schedules 300 satellite camps within a 20-mile radius of Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium.
Back to the old Mizzou?
Middle Tennessee State walked into Columbia, Mo., and left Missouri’s homecoming weekend with a 51-45 win.
The outcome continued a troubling pattern for Barry Odom in his first year as Tigers coach. Mizzou played lights-out against two inferior opponents earlier this year, and hung with Georgia until the final minute, but the Tigers simply have been bad in their other four contests.
Trips to West Virginia, LSU and Florida were all ugly, and this week essentially removed Missouri from bowl contention.
One of my fellow alums, a native Missourian, had this to say on Facebook: “Hate to be cynical Missouri fans,” the message read, “but this year is a bit more like the norm than the exception that was the Pinkel era. You probably don’t know who Larry Smith and Bob Stull are for a reason.”
Quick refresher, for those who aren’t hip to the program’s history: Missouri was one of the best programs in college football under Gary Pinkel from 2001-2015, during which time the Tigers won five division titles, three New Year’s Day bowl games, reached No. 1 on one occasion and sent Chase Daniel to the Heisman Trophy ceremony as a finalist.
But before “Gar-Bear” showed up in Columbia, the Tigers were a mess; they’d achieved only two winning seasons in 17 years, and had not won double digit games since Dan Devine went 10-1 and won the Orange Bowl in 1960.
Point being: Over the past several decades, winning has not been the norm in Columbia … losing has. And while there is plenty of money streaming into the athletic department thanks to the SEC’s revenue-sharing plan, there’s no guarantee that Mizzou won’t shrink back to its former state and wind up battling Vanderbilt to stay out of the SEC East cellar every year.
(Here’s hoping this thought exercise is an overreaction to a bad season.)
Other SEC moments that caught our eye
- Vanderbilt had a close call of its own, falling behind 7-0, 14-7 and 17-14 to Tennessee State, a team that had not played an FBS school in five years. The Commodores used 4 rushing touchdowns — none from Ralph Webb, oddly enough — to pull ahead and win, 35-17, but it was not a homecoming many Vandy grads will want to discuss around the water cooler.
- As embarrassing as Missouri’s loss to MTSU was, it did not qualify as “shocking.” Rather, the most surprising SEC result in Week 8 came out of Auburn, where the home team destroyed No. 17 Arkansas and declared itself a force to be reckoned with in the SEC West. It also prompted the following sentiment:
— WarBlogle.com (@WarBlogle) October 23, 2016
- Alabama lost star safety Eddie Jackson for the season when he broke his leg against Texas A&M. It may seem as if ‘Bama simply will be able to reload, but that’s a gross underestimation of Jackson’s impact on the Crimson Tide defense. As defensive end Jonathan Allen said, “It’s ‘next man up,’ but you can’t replace that.” Jackson was one of several Tide defenders to skip the NFL and return for one final championship run in Tuscaloosa. Here’s his response to former LSU star Tyrann Mathieu, who sent Jackson his prayers on Twitter:
Thanks Bro I Really Look At You And How You Overcame Everything That Keep Me Going? https://t.co/3Y6K9syhY7
— Eddie Jackson (@EJackson_4) October 23, 2016
- Mississippi State and Kentucky decided to play football this weekend, too, and Wildcats kicker Austin MacGinnis kept his team’s bowl hopes alive (and Mark Stoops’ seat lukewarm) with a clutch 51-yarder at the buzzer:
51-yard FG for the win.
TURN UP KENTUCKY FOOTBALL pic.twitter.com/g7PLIh6i9V
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) October 23, 2016
Non-SEC moments that caught our eye
- If a vote were held to determine the worst rivalry trophy in college football, there’d be a clear winner: The Civil Conflict Trophy, which is supposed to go to the winner of UConn-Central Florida. The ugly, oversized “prize” is so dumb that UCF refuses to acknowledge its existence, and the Knights simply declined to collect it after winning on Saturday.
- Jim Harbaugh kicked off a Michigan rout of Illinois by calling for a single-file formation that resulted in a red-zone touchdown. Gimmick? Yeah, but the play worked to perfection:
Like, seriously, how do you defend this?
Good luck, @umichfootball foes!
— Michigan On BTN (@MichiganOnBTN) October 22, 2016
- This trick play by Virginia was a tad cooler than Michigan’s:
- Unless you’re a St. Louis Cardinals fan, you probably smiled when you heard that the Chicago Cubs advanced to the World Series on Saturday night. The Cubbies’ Game 6 win over the Los Angeles Dodgers snapped a 70-year drought during which the team had not won a pennant. This lady knows what’s up:
— Adam Nissen (@nissen54) October 23, 2016
The Big 12 is a video game
Texas Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes totaled an NCAA-record 819 combined passing and rushing yards against Oklahoma … and still lost. Opposing quarterback Baker Mayfield completed 27 of 36 pass attempts for 545 yards, 7 touchdowns and no interceptions. Each team scored at least 10 points in every quarter as the Sooners won, 66-59.
If you have a few hours to spare, check out all of the offensive highlights below:
Looking back: Did you catch these?
- Projecting final records, order of finish for every SEC team (Alec Shirkey)
- We predicted Week 8 games using ‘NCAA Football’ … How’d we do? (Connor Riley)
- 6 SEC teams ranked in the new AP Top 25 (Nick Cole)
- Week 9 betting lines released … Florida nearly a 7-point favorite (Eric Dewberry)
- Jerry Jones makes generous gesture to Arky legend (Matt Barbato)