Heisman Forecast: Can anyone crash two-horse race of Fournette vs. Boykin?
Remember Geno Smith. Remember Dak Prescott and Marcus Mariota (circa 2013), Denard Robinson and on and on.
All those players headed toward the midpoint of the season as the Heisman Trophy front runners and none of them won. So it’s with the possibility of the sky falling in mind that the Forecaster declares: this race has basically whittled down to two challengers.
LSU’s Leonard Fournette vs. TCU’s Trevone Boykin.
Granted, Ohio State’s Ezekiel Elliott, Baylor’s Seth Russell, Clemson’s Deshaun Watson remain threats, but more often than not Elliott has been dependable instead of flashy, Russell — fair or not — is going to have to fight the system stigma and, maybe, having arguably the nation’s top wide receiver in Corey Coleman on his own team. Meanwhile, Watson still has No. 11 Florida State on Nov. 7, but he simply may not have a strong enough schedule to win.
But what would it take to change that narrative? What will need to happen in order for someone not named Fournette or Boykin to leave Times Square with the trophy in December?
When it comes to Fournette, he’s added to his ridiculous numbers — the LSU running back leads the nation with 1,022 rushing yards and 204.4 per and is second in scoring at 15.6 a game — with a show of humanity in auctioning off his game-worn jersey from the rout of South Carolina to aid flood victims. He certainly didn’t do it to increase his standing with voters, but the charitable act won’t hurt.
But the schedule will either make or break him, with a stunning four teams ranked 13th or higher, including this Saturday against No. 8 Florida and Nov. 7 against No. 10 Alabama and still-on-the-radar challenger Derrick Henry.
TCU’s season likely comes down to one game. While it has to face No. 16 Oklahoma State and No. 19 Oklahoma, the Horned Frogs will be heavy favorites there. It’s all about the regular-season finale as Boykin, who is second in the nation in total offense at 411.5 yards per game, meets No. 2 Baylor and Russell.
Fournette slipping amid the rugged SEC schedule and Boykin getting knocked off by Russell and Co. could be your sky is falling scenario. Those events are certain to raise Russell’s stock, and should Watson keep the Tigers rolling (with a dominant performance vs. the Seminoles a must), his odds will only rise. Plus, if No. 1 Ohio State (Elliott) keeps rolling or Alabama (Henry) or Florida State (Dalvin Cook) run the table, expect those RBs followers to grow.
But through six weeks, it remains Fournette’s Heisman to lose, with Boykin right there behind him. The sky may fall yet again, but for the sake of watching arguably the nation’s two most exciting players continue to distance themselves from the field, let’s hope we don’t add another name to the likes of those who faded.
Before we look at those who are set to rise and fall this weekend, herewith is the Forecaster’s latest cyber ballot:
1. Leonard Fournette, RB LSU, Soph.
2. Trevone Boykin, QB TCU, RS Sr.
3. Ezekiel Elliott, RB Ohio State, Jr.
ON THE RISE
1. Leonard Fournette, RB LSU, Soph.
This week presents, thus far, the frontrunner’s biggest chance to make a statement as LSU hosts No. 8 Florida. The highest-ranked team the Tigers have seen also possess the best defense, sitting 16th in FBS in allowing 296.3 yards per game, including 99.2 on the ground (12th). But Tennessee, had QB Joshua Dobbs run for 136 against the Gators and Jalen Hurd total 102, and as strong as they’ve been, Fournette is in a class all his own. Fournette will get his carries and his yards. The only question is, against an elite defense, can he come close to his season average of over 200 yards?
2. Dalvin Cook, RB Florida State, Soph.
Cook erased any concerns about his hamstring by torching Miami for 269 total yards and three scores, giving him two games of 266 or more yards this season — and those happen to be two more than the guy on the top of everyone’s list in Fournette. The Seminoles take on Louisville on Saturday, a team that has allowed a combined 116 rushing yards over the last two weeks, but those performances also came vs. NC State and Samford. In three games before that against two teams that are currently ranked (Clemson and Houston) and one that’s not (Auburn), the Cardinals yielded 202 yards (Tigers of the Howard’s Rock variety), 226 (Cougars) and 190 (Tigers of the Plains variety).
3. Derrick Henry, RB Alabama, Jr.
Records are always good tent poles for any campaign and Henry has one as he’s scored a least one touchdown in 11 straight games, breaking the mark of 10 set by Terry Davis from 1970-72. He hasn’t gone without a score since last November against LSU and the odds are with him continuing that run against No. 9 Texas A&M. The Aggies are 85th against the run, allowing 182.6 yards per game but have played four teams ranked 59th or lower on the ground, including 90th-ranked Mississippi State. Nevada (20th) is the only running attack in top half of FBS that A&M has faced and the Wolfpack rushed for 153 yards. Expect Henry to have a big day.
1. Connor Cook, QB Michigan State, RS Sr.
Cook had a career-high 367 yards in the Week 6 victory over Rutgers, which would seem to indicate he’s in a good place going into the suddenly massive clash with No. 12 Michigan. That being said, the Scarlet Knights have one of the nation’s worst defenses, giving up 292.6 passing yards per (115th). Just four Power 5 programs rank lower than Rutgers in that department, one of them being Oregon (124th at 323.5 per), the now floundering team which provided Cook and the Spartans with their signature win. He’s a veteran, but this Wolverines defense, which held current No. 5 Utah to 64 yards below its season average may just derail any hope he has of making a push for the Spartans’ first trophy.
2. Baker Mayfield, QB Oklahoma, Jr.
He remains fifth in FBS in pass efficiency (173.0), eighth in total offense (345.2) and tied for 11th in passing TDs (14), but Mayfield’s hopes took a serious hit in the Sooners’ 24-17 loss to a Texas squad that was one week removed from a 43-point beatdown at the hands of the Horned Frogs. Kansas State, in allowing 24.8 points (63rd) and a whopping 290.6 passing yards (114th) would seem to be the platform for Mayfield to put the Longhorns game behind him. But these are the same Wildcats that nearly upset TCU and there’s an absolute chance that the Sooners get tripped up again after a difficult loss to their supposed-to-be-reeling rivals.
3. Myles Garrett, DE Texas A&M, Soph.
As previously stated in the Henry section, the Aggies have not seen a running game as potent as the Crimson Tide’s sixth-ranked attack, which is racking up 264.5 ypg. While Garrett is an absolute force and will impact this game, his standing as the top non-offensive player in this race will take a hit against Alabama. Plus, he’s not involved on offense and we know what that does to a defender’s resume.
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney
- Alabama Crimson Tide
- Auburn Tigers
- Baker Mayfield
- Clemson Tigers
- Connor Cook
- Corey Coleman
- Dak Prescott
- Dalvin Cook
- Derrick Henry
- Deshaun Watson
- Ezekiel Elliott
- Florida State Seminoles
- FOX Sports South
- Geno Smith
- Jalen Hurd
- Joshua Dobbs
- Leonard Fournette
- LSU Tigers
- Michigan State Spartans
- Mississippi State Bulldogs
- Myles Garrett
- Ohio State Buckeyes
- Oklahoma Sooners
- Seth Russell
- TCU Horned Frogs
- Tennessee Volunteers
- Terry Davis
- Texas A&M Aggies
- Trevone Boykin