Stuart McNair

Alabama and LSU both in off week before Nov. 5 game

Alabama’s title hopes may depend on how Tide defense does against LSU’s Leonard Fournette

Wondering what LSU tailback Leonard Fournette said after rushing for a school record 284 yards on just 16 carries against Ole Miss last week?

“I’m physically out of shape,” Fournette said after leading his team to an impressive 38-21 victory over Mississippi. “I will use these next two weeks to get myself into better shape, so I can be at my best against Alabama.”

Fournette missed a few games with injury, but last week’s performance points to him being recovered. Both Alabama and LSU are enjoying off dates this weekend, and then will meet in an important Southeastern Conference game at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge next Saturday. It’s a CBS prime time game, kickoff at 7 p.m. CDT.

Alabama is 8-0 and ranked first in the nation. The Tide is 5-0 in SEC games. LSU (5-2 overall, 3-1 in the conference) is ranked 15th.

The feeling in Baton Rouge this week is that if Fournette can have a 200-yard-type rushing game and LSU defeat Alabama that Fournette will be back in the Heisman Trophy race this year.

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LSU Coach Ed Orgeron said, “I think he is the best player in the nation.”

Alabama fans might not be able to remember the score of last year’s Alabama-LSU game in Tuscaloosa, and yet they might be able to remember Fournette’s Waterloo. As a sophomore last year, Fournette came into Tuscaloosa as the odds-on favorite to win the Heisman

Alabama won the game, 30-16.

Fournette lost the Heisman, 19-31. That’s to say Fournette had 19 carries for 31 yards. On the same stage, Alabama’s Derrick Henry had 38 carries for 210 yards and three touchdowns, inserted his name into the Heisman conversation, and in December was handed the trophy.

This year, Alabama leads the nation in rushing defense, allowing 70.1 yards per game (257 rushes, 561 yards) and 2.2 yards per rush with 3 touchdowns and a long run of 47 yards.

Last week alone, Fournette had three rushes longer than the 47-yarder surrendered by the Tide. Fournette had touchdown runs of 59, 76, and 78 yards against the Rebels.

Our early prediction is that Fournette will get more than the 31 yards rushing he had last year against Alabama, but that if he needs to rush for 200 against the Tide to be a Heisman Trophy candidate he had better set his goal as the Doak Walker, given to the best running back.

And if Fournette is held to a low number, who knows what that might do for the Heisman Trophy hopes of Bama defensive end Jonathan Allen. Allen, last week’s national defensive player of the week, has 35 tackles this year, including 6 sacks and 6 ½ tackles for losses totaling 53 yards. He also has a team-high 10 quarterback pressures and has broken up two passes. Oh, yes. He also has two fumble recoverires which he has returned for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns.

And Jonathan Allen has been in shape all season.

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