Will Grier’s suspension puts spotlight on Leonard Fournette vs. Florida defense
It’s not like Leonard Fournette needed anymore attention.
This past week, Florida quarterback Will Grier was suspended for a calendar year after failing an NCAA drug test.
Naturally, the focus shifted onto Grier and the Florida offense as first-year Gators coach Jim McElwain is forced to turn to Treon Harris in his stead.
But don’t for a second think whoever is under center for Florida is the main storyline in this top-10 showdown.
No. 8 Florida has climbed up the national rankings thanks to its prolific defense. The Gators boast the nation’s 11th-ranked scoring defense (allowing 14.3 points per game) and have held SEC opponents to 12.3 points per game in four games.
Florida ranks 12th against the run (99.17 yards per game) and 45th against the pass (197.2 yards per game).
But here comes Fournette.
The nation’s top rusher, Fournette has piled up 1,022 yards and ran for 12 touchdowns in five games. The running back from New Orleans set numerous records as a freshman in 2014, and continues to add to his resume in his sophomore season.
Fournette became the fastest LSU player to eclipse 1,000 yards rushing in a season, tying the FBS record to do so in five games. That put the running back in Mount Rushmore-like company that includes Marcus Allen, Barry Sanders and Ricky Williams.
It will be strength against strength when the Bayou Bengals host the Gators on Saturday night under the lights in Death Valley.
There are so many compelling storylines in this contest, from how Harris fares in his second start of the season to how the LSU defensive backs compare to that of Florida’s — you know, they claim to be the “real” DBU.
Distractions aside, both the battle of the secondaries or who’s getting snaps under center pales in comparison to the matchup of Florida’s stout defense against the Heisman Trophy hopeful. It’s a battle of “our best” against “their best” which could — and should — decide the outcome of this game.
Fournette was averaging 200 yards per game until last week’s performance against South Carolina, when 158 yards and a touchdown out of the running back was enough for LSU to get by the Gamecocks.
However, the South Carolina defense doesn’t stack up to what Fournette and Co. are in store for when they host the Gators Saturday night. If there was ever a time for a signature performance from either Fournette or the Florida D, this is the time.
All I know is there is no matchup more important than that. It cannot be overstated, but is has — to a degree — been underappreciated.
So, is it Saturday night yet?