For nearly two months straight, this college football season looked as though LSU running back Leonard Fournette was on a clear path to winning the Heisman Trophy. That idea was obliterated by Alabama at Derrick Henry, who went on to seize control of the Heisman Trophy race and won it earlier this month. With one final game to play this season, on Dec. 29 against Texas Tech in the Texas Bowl, Fournette will look forward to ending the once-promising season on a high note.
Of all the teams Fournette could face to end the season with some momentum, Texas Tech is the best possible team to play in the bowl field. The Red Raiders ranked 126th in the nation against the run this season, allowing 271.83 rushing yards per game. The only two teams that allowed more rushing yards per game this season were Idaho and Eastern Michigan. Fournette led the nation in rushing yards per game, going for 158.27 yards per game on the ground, although Alabama’s Henry and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey ended the year with more rushing yards. Of course, both Henry and McCaffrey picked up a 13th game to play with conference championship game appearances. Fournette did face one of the two defenses worst than Texas Tech against the run this season.
On October 3, LSU and Fournette defeated Eastern Michigan 44-22. Fournette rushed for 233 yards and three touchdowns in the game before getting an early rest. Will Texas Tech be able to slow Fournette, who Les Miles should feel comfortable handing off to on nearly any down? The evidence from this fall would suggest not.
Texas Tech allowed 403 rushing yards in the final game of the regular season against Texas. The Longhorns also rushed for six touchdowns against the Red Raiders. Other teams to rush for at least 300 yards against Texas Tech this season included Sam Houston State (317 yards, five touchdowns), Baylor (368 yards, five touchdowns), Iowa State (315 yards, three touchdowns) and Oklahoma (405 yards, seven touchdowns).
Look for Fournette to have a big bowl game showing against the Red Raiders. If Fournette is tied down by Texas Tech, it may be among the biggest upsets of the season.
Upcoming SEC Bowl Schedule
Texas Bowl: LSU vs. Texas Tech (Dec. 29)
Fournette needs a big bounce-back performance, but Les Miles would be smiling with a win given the drama surrounding his status in the final weeks of the season.
Birmingham Bowl: Auburn vs. Memphis (Dec. 30)
Auburn’s defense, without Will Muschamp, will be challenged by a Memphis offense that ripped through Ole Miss this season. Memphis lost their head coach, Justin Fuente, to Virginia Tech.
Belk Bowl: Mississippi State vs. NC State (Dec. 30)
Look for Dak Prescott to have a big game against an NC State team that gives up yards and points.
Music City Bowl: Texas A&M vs. Louisville (Dec. 30)
Texas A&M’s recent quarterback departures make for a difficult situation against a decent Louisville team. The Cardinals came back to stun Kentucky in the final week of the regular season.
Kevin McGuire is a Philadelphia area sports writer covering the Philadelphia Eagles and college football. McGuire is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation. Follow McGuire on Twitter @KevinOnCFB. His work can be found on Examiner.com.