The Leonard Fournette Show
The SEC Riviera Roundup Week Four
By Chris Warner
September 25, 2015
Leonard Fournette’s outright dismantling of Auburn’s secondary last Saturday in Tiger Stadium signaled the beginning of a most deserved Heisman Trophy campaign for #7 and a dominating run of the schedule by the LSU Tigers, as college football has not seen such a premier talent since the likes of Herschel Walker and Bo Jackson, two of the SEC’s greatest running backs—and both Heisman Trophy recipients. Fournette’s coming out party was short-lived, as Coach Les Miles decided to pull number seven in the fourth quarter, after he amassed 228 rushing yards against a hapless Auburn Tiger defense. Fournette will resume his run for the elusive Heisman and a national championship for his Tigers, this weekend in Syracuse, New York, where the Tigers take on the Orangemen Saturday morning.
In this exclusive, weekly column related to all things SEC West Football, we’ll take our regular armchair quarterback tour through the nation’s toughest sub-conference, tagging winners and losers, as well as redefine the SEC Western Division race now that Alabama and Auburn—the preseason favorites to win the league by the media—have now both dropped a conference game.
Order Restored Spawns Disorder in Alabama
Ole Miss’s victory in Tuscaloosa Saturday night was a shot heard around the Deep South. Coupled with Auburn’s embarrassing loss to LSU, the rare double loss was a harbinger of doubt and sorrow for college football fans calling the State of Alabama home. Nick Saban has now dropped consecutive games to Hugh Freeze and the Rebels, along with his last two post-season contests, meaning that the luster is beginning to wear off the championship hardware proudly housed on campus.
Rumors abound that Saban has grown tired of Tuscaloosa, and is readying for a new challenge. His previous NFL adventure was a flop. Does the West Virginia native still long for NFL success? If Saban was to plan a departure, one would think that after this year the timing would be ripe, as Bama is unlikely to return to the SEC Championship game given their schedule. Like Steve Spurrier, Saban appears to have peaked, as Ole Miss fans now have him to thank for their return to gridiron glory, and restored order.
Saban’s team uncharacteristically turned the ball over five times on Saturday night, practically giving the game away to the Rebels with one wrapped gift after another. Discipline appears to now be a factor among the Crimson Tide ranks, and the recent abounding rumors regarding Lane Kiffin’s off-the-field antics only add credence to the notion that the head man has lost control of the direction of the program—and more importantly—the respect he once had as one of the nation’s top defensive football coaches.
Gus Malzahn saw enough in Death Valley on Saturday. This week he benched senior Jeremy Johnson as Auburn’s starting quarterback and tapped redshirt freshman Sean White as his replacement. White will try and resurrect an offense that was once feared among the toughest SEC defensive ranks. Malzahn deserves much criticism for his coaching of Jeremy Johnson as well as his contribution to the avalanche of premature hype heaped onto Johnson in the preseason. Johnson obviously was not ready to lead the Tigers. His coach should have known this. Auburn now must now rebuild its offense around a green signal caller who barely stands six feet tall. That’s a tall order—even for a “guru” like Malzahn.
Around the SEC West
Alabama – Nick Saban’s farewell tour begins this week with Western Carolina at home. The Tide still has to play Georgia and Tennessee and the rest of the Tide-hungry SEC Western Division slate. If the persistent rumors about Lane Kiffin are true—Alabama’s season could end in outright disaster, meaning the Alabama Football Program could be on the precipice of disaster. Bama faces UL Monroe Saturday.
Arkansas – Brett Bielema should start dusting off his resume’. Arkansas’s loss to Texas Tech likely ended the Razorback Football experiment. A preseason of promise has come crashing down for the Hog faithful, and at this point it looks like Arkansas will struggle to win a conference game, as their once proud running game and solid defense have evaporated—along with Bielema’s Fayetteville future. The Hogs face A&M Saturday.
Auburn – Auburn defensive back Rudy Ford is now the poster boy for why you should be silent heading into a game against LSU and Leonard Fournette. In what has now become a legendary faux pas, Ford made the ridiculous statement that Fournette was going to be easy to stop in Baton Rouge. Check the film of Ford’s “tackling” effort against Fournette last Saturday. It looked like touch football. Auburn host Mississippi State Saturday.
LSU – The Tigers trail Ole Miss in the national polls, but that’s only because the media darlings are still infatuated with their favorite son, Nick Saban, who can apparently do no wrong. Had Les Miles gotten his referees to add a second on the clock so Auburn could win on a kick six, you’d still be hearing about it. Hang on folks…things are about to get really interesting in Tuscaloosa. LSU is a 24-point favorite in Syracuse, New York.
Mississippi State – Dan Merlins Mullen has a much better team that most realize. He has the SEC’s top quarterback in Dak Prescott, a solid defense and a team that appears to believe it can still play for championships, despite dropping an early game to LSU. Somehow State is an underdog heading into Auburn this weekend. Take State and the points.
Ole Miss – Hugh Freeze has the Ole Miss faithful in a tizzy. The Rebels have not won the SEC since 1963 and have not sniffed Atlanta since Eli was their quarterback. That year an LSU team bound for a national title dashed the Rebels’ SEC Championship hopes with a win in Oxford. 2015 appears to be heading in the same direction, which will be an epic, late-season contest. Inebriated Tiger fans will descend on Oxford in droves. Ole Miss hosts Vandy this Saturday.
Texas A&M – Aggie fans have blocked from their collective memory banks the painful second half of what was the 2014 football season. In their minds, there was no 59-0 loss to Alabama, no late season fall to Mizzou or LSU. 2015 is a new lease…a chance at redemption…that all starts with a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks in Arlington, Texas this Saturday. Gig Em’!
Until next time…
*Chris Warner is double graduate of LSU and holds a doctorate from the University of New Orleans. He has blogged about SEC Football for 17 years running and is the author of over 20 books, including the popular “Tailgater’s Guide to SEC Football Volume IV” and “SEC Sports Quotes Compendium,” along with “The Wagon to Disaster,” “Bushwhacked at the Flora-Bama, Volume II” and “Saved at the Alabama-Florida Line,” a novel set at the iconic watering hole in 2010. He is currently writing, “Captured by the Brit Who Fooled Baton Rouge,” the life and times and hideous crimes of one Richard Scott Rogers, an insidious pedophile who masqueraded as a TV talk Show host for 12 years in Baton Rouge before his deserved demise at the hands of his gay lover and son-in-law in August 2014.