Fournette makes an early case for the Heisman
LSU running back Leonard Fournette kicked off his Heisman campaign with a great performance on Saturday in the Tigers’ 45-21 win over Auburn. Fournette rushed for 228 yards with three scores and graded out a spectacular +6.7 PFF rating and now leads the nation at +8.5.
The reason this was such a great achievement for Fournette was two-fold. First, his previous best PFF grade for a single game was against lowly New Mexico State last season (+4.8). Not only did he shatter that mark, but he did it against an SEC-caliber defense this time around. And second, if you compare what he did on Saturday against what Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon did last season (+5.6) versus a lowly MAC defense, you start to realize just how remarkable of a game he had.
Fournette will look to become just the second running back since the turn of the century to win the prized trophy. Reggie Bush won it in 2005 but forfeited it after sanctions were handed down five years later to the USC program.
The only other running back to win the award since Ron Dayne in ’99 was Mark Ingram of Alabama. Ingram did not have record-setting stats that season, but he did play in the BCS Title game and played for a legendary program.
Quarterbacks often steal the award due to the increased level of importance placed on those under center. If you put up big numbers and get your team to the championship game, chances are you’re going to win. Just last year quarterback Marcus Mariota beat out Melvin Gordon even though Gordon rushed for 2,587 yards — second all-time to ’88 Heisman winner Barry Sanders. For context, Mariota’s best PFF grade last season for a single game was +6.0 against Oregon State.
All this doesn’t mean Fournette can’t win it this year. His schedule actually plays out perfectly. Between now and November 7th, Fournette should be able to pad on his stats as the Tigers will be double-digit favorites over their next five games. If the Tigers are unbeaten into November, Fournette will have the spotlight games every Heisman candidate covets including at Ole Miss on November 21st against fellow Heisman candidate, quarterback Chad Kelly.
There is no doubt Fournette is facing an uphill battle to win the Heisman — which is slowly turning into another quarterback trophy — but I guarantee if his team can run the table, Leonard Fournette will win the 2015 edition.