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).
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 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.
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:
- Alabama (60)
- Ohio State
- Michigan (1)
- Texas A&M
- West Virginia
- Florida State
- Boise State
- Western Michigan
- North Carolina
- Ole Miss