Heisman Forecast: Why Fournette still leads race, though Henry is gaining

Leonard Fournette didn’t just have a bad night in Tuscaloosa. He had, what was ultimately, the worst game of his two seasons at LSU.

Alabama held the running back to a career-low 1.6 average on 19 carries in a 30-16 drubbing, and while it couldn’t have come on a worse stage, Fournette wouldn’t be alone among backs in having a forgettable game in a Heisman Trophy run.

Mark Ingram had two in 2009, running for 30 yards vs. Auburn and 50 and a touchdown vs. Arkansas; Ricky Williams was held to 43 yards on 25 carries by Kansas State in 1998; Bo Jackson managed 48 yards on 16 carries against Florida in ’85 and in ’75, Archie Griffin capped his bid for a repeat with 46 yards on 19 tries vs. Michigan.

The difference with Fournette is that he wilted while one of his biggest challengers, Crimson Tide RB Derrick Henry rolled for 210 yards and three scores on 38 attempts. But did a player who was the clear leader going into Week 10 really, as these odds state, hurt his stock enough that he’s no longer the favorite?

Fournette remains the nation’s leader in rushing yards (1,383) and yards per (172.9), and despite the Alabama game and the opener with McNeese State being canceled, is on pace for 1,902 yards in the regular season. Considering the Tigers’ final three games includes Texas A&M, which is 115th against the rush, 2,000 yards is still very obtainable.

That would have Fournette obliterating Herschel Walker’s SEC record of 1,891 yards set in 1981. With all due respect to Walker, the award’s ’82 winner, his victory came with Georgia playing zero ranked teams in the regular season. LSU has already faced four in a slate that the NCAA strength of schedule model ranks as the 10th-most difficult in FBS.

There’s no doubt that Fournette’s candidacy took a hit against Alabama, but there’s also no doubt that he’s still very much a viable threat to hoist the Heisman.

Fournette has taken his mulligan, one that his torrid pace afforded him. He just can’t afford another misstep.

Before we dive into the players who are poised to rise and fall in Week 11, here’s how the Forecaster’s ballot currently stands:

1. Leonard Fournette, RB LSU, Soph.
2. Derrick Henry, RB Alabama, Jr.
3. Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson, Soph.

ON THE RISE

1. Derrick Henry, RB Alabama, Jr.

As detailed after Week 1, Nick Saban has a track record with runners and this award when they’ve accounted for at least 44 percent of the Crimson Tide’s carries. Mark Ingram won with 45 percent in ’09 and Trent Richardson was a finalist in ’11 with 44 percent. Henry, though, is currently responsible for 56.1 percent of the team’s 388 rushes, which would be the most of any RB in the Saban era. Stealing the spotlight from Fournette is only the resume-topper as he helps to keep Alabama in position to make the College Football Playoff.

2. Deshaun Watson, QB Clemson, Soph.

The numbers aren’t close to what we’ve come to expect from Heisman-winning QBs in this era, with Watson’s 302.9 yards of offense per game below the 390 that Marcus Mariota, Jameis Winston, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III and Cam Newton averaged. But Watson is the face of the No. 1 team in the nation, and racking up over 400 yards vs. No. 16 Florida State in the perceived biggest game of the ACC season certainly helps. With Trevone Boykin’s setback (more on that later), Watson may be emerging as the best bet for a sixth straight quarterback to win. He’s in position to boost his stats this week against Syracuse and its 100th-ranked defense.

3. Christian McCaffrey, QB Stanford, Soph.

McCaffrey continued his tear with 147 yards against Colorado — granted, it is the nation’s 110th-ranked rush D — for his eighth straight game of at least 107 yards on the ground. Since games of 66 (Northwestern) and 58 yards (UCF) in the opening weeks, McCaffrey has totaled 1,083 yards, which is more than any other Power 5 back since Week 3. The remaining Pac-12 regular-season schedule doesn’t do him many favors with Oregon (4-2 in North) and Cal (2-4), but the finale vs. No. 4 Notre Dame and a likely Pac-12 title game matchup against No. 10 Utah could help him reach New York if he stays hot.

FALL GUYS

1. Trevone Boykin, QB TCU, RS Sr.

So why does Fournette get a pass for his down performance while Boykin slips after totaling 518 yards and three TDs in the loss to Oklahoma State? For one, Boykin was facing a defense that came in 62nd against the pass and had given up 480 against Texas Tech the week before. Fournette faced what is now FBS’ No. 2 team against the rush. Boykin also tossed a career-high four interceptions in the loss in Stillwater, including a pick-six with less than a minute remaining. His mistakes were costly, and while he can rebound with No. 12 Oklahoma and No. 6 Baylor still on the schedule, his hopes have faded for now.

2. Dalvin Cook, RB Florida State, Soph.

The overall numbers against Clemson pointed to continued brilliance from the Seminoles RB, including the 75-yard TD run just 45 seconds into the game. But after his second attempt, which went for 36 yards, the Tigers held Cook to 66 yards on 15 carries the rest of the way and kept him out of the end zone. He’s now 12 yards away from breaking Warrick Dunn’s single-season school record of 1,242 yards in 1995, but a second loss in the last three games puts him further out of the national focus. It’s still well within reason to think he could surpass Dunn in the ’95 voting, who finished ninth.

3. Paxton Lynch, QB Memphis, Jr.

A week after hyping Lynch’s fringe candidacy with Memphis’ standing in the CFP rankings, he and the Tigers slipped following their 45-20 loss to Navy. Granted, Memphis is still ranked 21st and Lynch’s resume would get a boost this week against No. 24 Houston, but the Tigers couldn’t contain Navy’s rushing attack. Now they’ll face a Cougars offense that’s generating 273.9 behind a QB in Greg Ward Jr., who is coming off a 119-yard rushing day vs. Cincinnati, and can open some eyes in this one.

Source: MSN

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