Leonard Fournette may not get the hardware, but is there a better player in college football?
There’s a great debate in college football right now, after Leonard Fournette’s record-setting outing against Ole Miss last Saturday. Is he the best player in college football, and will he win the Heisman Trophy?
Yes and no, in that order, may be the most correct answers.
Fournette broke off touchdown runs of 78, 76 and 59 yards en route to a total of 284 yards and three touchdowns on just 16 carries en route to a 38-21 victory over archrival Ole Miss. It was one of the most dominant performances in college football this year.
Yet, some are saying he shouldn’t be considered for the Heisman. Why they say? Because he missed three games earlier in the season with a sprained ankle and because the Tigers will only play 11 games instead of 12 because the Tigers cancelled a scheduled game against Southern Alabama to make up for the postponed Southeastern Conference game against Florida. That will mean Fournette will play in only eight games, nine if the Tigers reach the SEC Championship. Because he’s not playing a full 11 or 12 game schedule, some say he should be all but disqualified for the honor.
That’s hogwash. The injury and games being cancelled and postponed are out of his control. But there’s still time for Fournette to make his case.
Sure, he averaged just fewer than 130 yards rushing per game before the injury, and wasn’t as impactful at the beginning of the season when LSU stumbled to an unexpected 2-2 record, with losses to Wisconsin and Auburn. But that, too, was before LSU fired head coach Les Miles and named Ed Orgeron interim head coach. The Tigers are undefeated, winning each game by double digits, since the change, and have looked like a completely different team than the one that took the field in September.
Last year, Fournette was the Heisman favorite before the Alabama game. But the Crimson Tide held Fournette to 31 yards on 19 carries (1.6 yards per attempt), on their way to a 30-16 victory in Tuscaloosa, Ala. That game started a slide that saw LSU tumble, Miles nearly get the ax, and Fournette marginalized in the Heisman race.
This year, the stakes are just as high, as a rejuvenated Tiger team is looking to knock off the Tide’s block and run the table.
LSU is off this weekend, but still faces Alabama, Arkansas, Florida and Texas A&M to close out the season. If Fournette is difference maker in those games, and he has to be exceptional in each, especially against Alabama, and LSU can reach, even win, the SEC Championship, Heisman voters have no choice but to include him.
If, by chance, he’s not invited to the Downtown Athletic Club for the trophy presentation at the end of the season, Fournette may still get the bigger win – a higher draft selection in the upcoming 2017 NFL Draft.