LSU junior running back Leonard Fournette has been touted as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender since his freshman year, and heading into the 2016 season MyBookie has him at the top of its Heisman futures list to win it this year at +300 betting odds.
Fournette is no stranger to being at the head of the class when it comes to winning college football's most prestigious award as the top player in the nation. He came into last season as one of the top favorites to win the 2015 Heisman after breaking onto the scene as a freshman the season before. He ended his first season at LSU with 1,034 rushing yards and 10 touchdown runs on 187 carries. He did not garner any Heisman votes that year, but he certainly made an impression in many of the voter's minds.
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The 2015 season started on a high note with 159 yards rushing and three touchdown runs in a road win against Mississippi State. His Heisman momentum continued to build with three straight games of rushing for over 200 yards in each while scoring a combined six touchdowns. With the Tigers a perfect 7-0 heading into a huge showdown against Alabama on the road in early November, he appeared to be a lock to win this award.
As we all know, there is no such thing as a "lock" when it comes to the unpredictable world of sports, and Fournette took a major fall from grace with just 31 yards rushing on 19 carries in LSU's crushing 30-16 loss to the Crimson Tide. His chances to win the 2015 Heisman officially came to an end with a second straight sub-par performance in the Tigers' 31-14 loss to Arkansas at home the following week with 91 yards on 19 carries. When the final 2015 Heisman vote was tallied, Fournette found himself a distant sixth on the list with just 110 points.
On the year, he did rush for 1,953 yards on 300 attempts for an average of 6.5 yards a carry, and he made his way into the end zone 22 times on the ground and once through the air. Unfortunately for his Heisman chances, the expectation level was set so high that he could not overcome those two disappointing performances in the voter's eyes.
This is one of the main problems that I have when it comes to the value in Fournette's lofty Heisman betting odds heading into this season. He could probably rush for 150 yards or more in 11 of LSU's 12 regular-season games, but another weak performance against Alabama at home on Sat. Nov. 5 could once again put a major dent in his chances to actually win. Ironically enough, the Tigers will then face Arkansas the following week on the road.
He will get a chance to pad his early nod as the top favorite with a national broadcast showdown against the Big Ten's Wisconsin Badgers in the Tigers' season opener on Saturday, Sept. 3, at Lambeau Field in Green Bay. LSU's first SEC game of the season is against Mississippi State at home on Sept. 17 before heading to Auburn to take on those Tigers the following Saturday. MyBookie has opened LSU as a +300 second-favorite to win the SEC Championship this season behind Alabama (+140), and Auburn is fourth on the list at +800. A strong performance in this Week 4 showdown against Auburn would most likely keep Fournette in solid shape as the frontrunner to win this award.
Later in the fall, the Tigers will face Florida on the road in early October before squaring off against Ole Miss at home on Oct. 22. Following a week off, LSU will be back in action at home against Alabama in what could be a winner-take-all battle for the SEC East Division title.
Playing in the SEC affords Fournette a bright spotlight that some of the other top Heisman contenders do not enjoy, but that can also work against his chances to win as was the case last year. At 6-foot-1, 230 lbs. there is no doubt that this guy is a stud that is set up to enjoy a prosperous career in the NFL, but his margin for error to win this season's Heisman is rather thin in my opinion.
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Read more articles by Dave Schwab
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