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No Pressure, Leonard

It’s just your entire career being judged by one game

LSU v Auburn
Fournette pauses before consuming a defense’s soul
Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Let’s not mince words: this is the single biggest game of Leonard Fournette’s career, and absolutely crucial to his legacy.

That is also an incredibly unfair standard, but life is unfair sometimes. Leonard Fournette arrived on campus as perhaps the single most hyped recruit in LSU history. And he has absolutely delivered on that promise, not just putting up video game numbers, but also destroying defenders’ wills, and creating a legion of hilarious gifs documenting his path of destruction.

Right now, Fournette has 570 carries for 3,657 yards and 37 touchdowns on his career, plus another two touchdowns from kick returns. He is almost certainly going to finish in the top ten in SEC history in rushing yards, and he will do it on far less carries than anyone else on that list. He topped Herschel Walker’s single-season rushing record, unfortunately in the same year that Derrick Henry did it with the benefit of three extra games.

Leonard Fournette is going to go down as one of the best running backs in SEC history. But that’s not what he’s after. He wants to go down as a legend. To be mentioned in the same breath as Bo and Herschel. And to do that, three things are missing from his impressive resume: a Heisman, an SEC title, and a win over Alabama.

That’s the standard. You want to be one of the all-time greats, you need to do something that is worthy of being called an all-time great. And putting up some impressive numbers is nice, but people inside and outside Baton Rouge will always bring up the lack of hardware on his mantle.

Let’s think back to last year at this time. LSU was undefeated and Fournette was a runaway Heisman favorite. Then, the Bama game happened. Not only did LSU get demolished, Fournette was barely a factor. He rushed for 31 yards on 19 carries, easily the worst game of his career. Now, it wasn’t entirely his fault, as the offensive line had a brutal game, but still, this is immortality we’re talking about. Fournette had his worst game by miles in LSU’s biggest game.

Since that day, Fournette tumbled from the Heisman lead and wasn’t even invited to New York for some absurd reason which passes understanding. LSU lost three of its last four regular season games and then sputtered to a 2-2 start this year. Fournette got hurt in preseason camp, and barely resembled himself early in the year before sitting out for nearly a month. Les Miles survived a palace coup, only to get fired the next season. This program and this player barely resemble themselves from one year ago.

And here we are again. LSU lit up the scoreboard and the internet with a dominating performance against Ole Miss. LSU is back in the conversation for the SEC title, if not the national title, and playing better than it has in, well, a year. Right on schedule, here comes the boss level.

In his career, Fournette has rushed for 110 yards and 1 touchdown on 40 carries against Alabama. That is from a guy who averages, on his career, 6.42 yards/carry and 126.1 yards/game. His previous efforts will not cut it. He needs to be great for LSU to win, and he needs LSU to win to get a shot at football immortality.

If LSU can win out and sneak into the SEC Championship Game, that will earn Fournette one more regular season game before the Heisman voters make their final decision. If he simply runs for his career average in each game, he will finish the season with 1300 yards. Perhaps that can at least get him an invite that he needs for his legacy.

But let’s get even crazier. If LSU beats Alabama, wins out, and somehow goes to the SEC title game, it could open up a shot at the playoffs. A win there means not just one extra game at the end of the season, but two. If LSU loses to Bama, there are only five games left in Fournette’s career. If LSU wins, and keeps winning, there could be seven games left.

Once again, just add Leonard Fournette’s career game average over seven games. That would give him 882 yards in those games, and 1,554 on the season. But that’s not the big deal. That would also give him 4,539 career yards. That’s just 18 yards shy of Kevin Faulk’s LSU record and 51 yards shy of Darren McFadden for second place all-time in the SEC behind Herschel.

And that’s if he just puts up his career average. He’s averaging 167.5 yards/game this season. If he rushes for his season average, then he could rush for 838 yards in five games, enough to get him to 1,508 in time for the Heisman vote, which could be good enough to win it. It would also put him at 4,495 career yards before the postseason. That could get him to 4,800 career yards and comfortably in second place in SEC history.

It would also secure him as a bona fide SEC icon. Heisman Trophy winner, SEC champion, and a guy who overcame the slings and arrows to finally vanquish the demon of Alabama.

But none of that happens without a win on Saturday and a big game for Leonard Fournette. It’s not fair to say he has to have a historic game against the best team in the country to secure his legacy as one of the Greatest rather than just a very good player, but that’s the bar he set for himself. It’s the difference between being Bo and being Eric Rhett, who sits 5th all-time in the SEC record book.

LSU has a lot at stake against Alabama, but no player on the field will have more at stake than Leonard Fournette. It is time for him to decide whether he is a Football Immortal. He has his doubters, particularly after last year’s performance against the Tide’s defense. To them, I can only say…

Galactus is Coming.