Leonard Fournette should have a big day versus Texas Tech
LSU looked like a legitimate playoff contender early on in the season, but after three straight November losses they dropped all the way to the Texas Bowl, where they’ll face off against Texas Tech. This will be the second SEC team Tech has faced after beating Arkansas with a 35-24 win early in the season.
There are many elements that could decide this one, but only one matchup that actually will. How does Texas Tech stop Leonard Fournette? A 300+ yard game from the sophomore running back wouldn’t be out of the question. Texas Tech boasts the third worst run defense grade in the entire country. The worrisome part is the Red Raiders have no one to turn to that can stop the run. Every single defensive lineman that has played at least 10 snaps this year has a run defense grade at -1.0 or below. Demetrius Alston and Breiden Fehoko are tied for the second worst run defense grade in all of the FBS among interior defenders. Behind them linebacker Micah Awe has the fourth worst run defense grade among Power Five linebackers.
That futility doesn’t bode well when you consider Fournette’s jaw dropping numbers this year. He leads all running backs in rushing grade (+30.3), broken tackles (77) and his 3.7 average yards after contact is ninth best in the FBS. If Fournette’s getting five yards every time he touches the ball, LSU won’t even need quarterback Brandon Harris to drop back to pass. LSU ran the ball on 60.5 percent of their snaps this year and are already among the most run-heavy teams in the country.
If Texas Tech does have a chance, it’s because the LSU offensive line hasn’t been anything special this year. Right tackle Vadal Alexander and right guard William Clapp are the only two linemen graded in the green, while they have a negative run blocking grade as a team.
The other defining matchup is Texas Tech’s passing game. Patrick Mahomes has graded out above average this year (+15.2) and has the ninth best accuracy percentage among power five quarterbacks (75.9). Jakeem Grant has been his favorite target this year and with good reason. Grant’s 30 broken tackles are the most of any receiver in the FBS this year. The senior is averaging 2.41 yards per route run from the slot, the 10th best figure in the nation.
Mahomes and company haven’t faced many secondaries this year as talented as talented as LSU’s though. Freshman cornerback Kevin Toliver (+5.4) has graded out as the best of the bunch in coverage this year and only has allowed a 53.1 percent catch rate when targeted. Fellow cornerback Tre’Davious White (+4.0) along with safeties Jamal Adams (+3.4) and Rickey Jefferson (+1.4) all also have positive coverage grades.
Other players to watch
RB DeAndre Washington (+12.8 overall)
LT Le’Raven Clark (+23.5 overall)
ILB Pete Robertson (+8.1 pass rushing)
RG William Clapp (+11.3 overall)
DT Davon Godchaux (+14.3 pass rushing)
WR Malachi Dupre (+8.4 receiving)
LSU 45, Texas Tech 28