Ole Miss Rebels

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 10: Running back Kerryon Johnson #21 of the Auburn Tigers dives into the end zone for a touchdown during their game against the Arkansas State Red Wolves at Jordan Hare Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama. (Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images)
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Gus Malzahn says ‘no doubt’ Kerryon Johnson will play vs. Ole Miss

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Kerryon Johnson‘s absence from the field will apparently be a brief one.

The running back sustained a sprained ankle in Auburn’s Week 6 win over Mississippi State, and, coming off a bye, the football program was initially optimistic he’d be available for the Week 8 game against Arkansas.  Instead, he was a game-day decision for the Razorbacks.

While Johnson missed that game, that won’t be the case this Saturday as Gus Malzahn declared his starting back ready to go against Ole Miss.

“He practiced yesterday. He will play, there’s no doubt about that,” the head coach Gus Malzahn said during the weekly SEC teleconference Wednesday. “We’re trying to be smart about it.”

At the time of his injury, Johnson’s 538 yards rushing and six touchdowns were tops among all Tiger backs.  Kamryn Pettway ran for a career-high 192 yards against te Razorbacks, and now leads the team with 697 yards.  Both Johnson and Pettway are part of an offense that ranks third nationally in rushing yards per game (302.9).

Leonard Fournette sets school record as LSU runs all over Ole Miss

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 22:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers runs past Zedrick Woods #36 of the Mississippi Rebels for a 76-yard touchdown during the first half of a game at Tiger Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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It’s been a strange season for LSU and Leonard Fournette but the two reunited in a big way on Saturday night to run right over Ole Miss in a 38-21 win that put the rest of the SEC back on notice about the team from Baton Rouge.

Fournette needed just eight carries to set a new LSU school record for rushing yards in a game and finished the night with a whopping 284 yards on just 16 carries. The one-time Heisman Trophy front-runner scored three times as well and each one was a highlight in itself: from 59 yards out, another from 76 yards and a final one from 78 yards to embarrass the Ole Miss defense.

Backup Derrius Guice saw his string of 100 yard games come to an end after filling in nicely for Fournette but he did rush for 57 yards and a touchdown. Quarterback Danny Etling didn’t have to do much as a result of that attack, throwing for 204 yards, a score and an interception.

Ole Miss was a controversial selection in the top 25 this week at 3-3 entering the game and failed to live up to the hype by dropping their second in a row. Chad Kelly was rattled on just about every throw, finishing with only 209 yards and a touchdown while throwing two picks and getting sacked twice. He didn’t get much help from the Rebels defense either, which was flattened by Fournette and gave up 515 total yards.

The win was LSU interim coach Ed Orgeron’s third in a row and gives the team plenty of momentum heading into their bye week. A home night game against No. 1 Alabama awaits after that and it’s not a stretch to say that the school would make him the permanent head coach if the win streak stretches to four.

There’s a long time between now and then however, but at least on Saturday night LSU looked a lot like the team that was ranked in the top 10 of the preseason polls and had a Heisman Trophy candidate in the backfield.

Leonard Fournette returns for LSU but late score helps Ole Miss tie things up at halftime

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 22: Head coach Ed Orgeron of the LSU Tigers talks to head coach Hugh Freeze of the Mississippi Rebels before a game at Tiger Stadium on October 22, 2016 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
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Leonard Fournette has spent most of October resting up a litany of injuries that has kept him out of the lineup.

Based on the way he looked Saturday night in helping LSU tie things up 21-all against Ole Miss at halftime, it appears the tailback is finally healthy.

Fournette needed just six carries to cruise over the century mark on the ground and finished the half with 171 yards rushing and two scores — the first on a 59 yarder in which he ran over the Rebels defense, and the latter one a 76 yarder in which he raced away from nearly everybody on the field.

Quarterback Danny Etling didn’t need to do much with big No. 7 toting the rock so well but did manage to pass for 120 yards and a long 40 yard touchdown pass to D.J. Chark.

The Tigers defense also stepped up in slowing the Rebels normally potent offense. Chad Kelly threw one ill-advised interception and nearly tossed a few more as the Ole Miss offense had problems finding much consistency. The team was bailed out by their defense recovering a fumble just before the end of the second quarter that set up their final score to close the gap otherwise Hugh Freeze would have gone into the locker room with a deficit.

LSU has certainly been rejuvenated under the tenure of interim head coach Ed Orgeron and that continued in the first half of their SEC West showdown with his old team. The only question left might be what Fournette can do for an encore after racking up some impressive numbers in the first half against Ole Miss.

LSU’s Ed Orgeron: I’m no doctor but I think Leonard Fournette will play against Ole Miss

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Leonard Fournette #7 of the LSU Tigers rushes against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
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LSU’s star tailback Leonard Fournette has missed several games this season due to injuries but appears to be healthy enough to take the field this week as the Tigers’ SEC West schedule heats up.

“We’re thinking he can, but I thought he could play two, three weeks ago. I’m not a doctor, that’s for sure, but I think he’s going to play,” head coach Ed Orgeron said after LSU’s 45-10 win over Southern Miss on Saturday night. “(We’ll) see if he can practice on Tuesday and Wednesday. I’m not going to push him. If he’s not ready, he’s not ready. But the feeling is that he’s going to be ready, but we’re not for sure yet.”

The one-time Heisman Trophy favorite has had a lingering ankle injury dating back to fall camp that caused him to miss the second game of the season back in Week 2. Fournette returned to play in a loss to Auburn in late September but reaggravated the injury again to cause him to miss games against Missouri and Southern Miss.

While Fournette is undoubtedly one of the best players in college football when healthy, the team hasn’t lost much in the run game thanks to backup Derrius Guice. The sophomore rushed for 163 yards against Missouri after starting and added 162 more over the weekend.

You have to figure the plan all along was to get Fournette fully healthy instead of trotting him out against two very winnable teams the past few weeks. Orgeron is fighting hard to keep the head coaching position in Baton Rouge and will need all the firepower he can get offensively as the Tigers face a brutal stretch of five straight ranked teams in six weeks.

AP Top 25: Idle Michigan rises to No. 3, Clemson falls

FILE - In this June 8, 2016, file photo, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh encourages high school football players in their speed drill at a Michigan Satellite Camp at Pearl High School in Pearl, Miss. Plenty of coaches use Twitter, whether they’re capitalizing on the new rule or communicating indirectly with fellow coaches. Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh called out Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith, Georgia coach Kirby Smart and Tennessee coach Butch Jones on Twitter during the offseason for their comments about his decisions to hold spring practice sessions in Florida and conduct satellite camps. (Elijah Baylis/The Clarion-Ledger via AP, File)
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The Michigan Wolverines did not play a single down this weekend, but that did not stop the Wolverines from moving up one spot in the poll. Michigan moved up one spot in the AP poll this week after Clemson struggled at home against North Carolina State. Alabama remains the top-ranked team in the poll this week, followed by Ohio State.

Alabama received 60 first-place votes in this week’s AP poll. Michigan was the only other team to receive a first-place vote, as they have received each week of the season so far from Scott Wolf of the Los Angeles Daily News. Nebraska moved up two spots within the top 10 this week, and Baylor moved up two spots to crack the top 10. Despite its second loss, Wisconsin remained in the top 10 after falling two spots.

West Virginia is on the move once again, jumping up eight spots to No. 12 in this week’s AP poll. At No. 14, Boise State is the second-highest-ranked Group of Five program this week. No. 11 Houston remains at the top of the Group of Five pack, despite a loss to No. 24 Navy.

New teams in the poll this week include No. 22 North Carolina and No. 25 LSU. Big drops were experienced by No. 18 Tennessee (down nine spots) and No. 23 Ole Miss (down 11 spots).

Miami and Virginia Tech each dropped out of the poll this week following losses.

AP Top 25 By Conference:

  • ACC – 4
  • American – 2
  • Big 12 – 3
  • Big Ten – 4
  • MAC – 1
  • Mountain West – 1
  • Pac-12 – 2
  • SEC – 8

Here is this week’s updated AP Top 25, with first-place votes noted:

  1. Alabama (60)
  2. Ohio State
  3. Michigan (1)
  4. Clemson
  5. Washington
  6. Texas A&M
  7. Louisville
  8. Nebraska
  9. Baylor
  10. Wisconsin
  11. Houston
  12. West Virginia
  13. Florida State
  14. Boise State
  15. Florida
  16. Oklahoma
  17. Arkansas
  18. Tennessee
  19. Utah
  20. Western Michigan
  21. Auburn
  22. North Carolina
  23. Ole Miss
  24. Navy
  25. LSU