Derrius Guice

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LSU sacks Louisville Heisman QB Lamar Jackson eight times in Citrus Bowl romp, 29-9

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It was a long afternoon for Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson and No. 13 Louisville (9-4) in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl, as No. 20 LSU (8-4) used its signature defense to sack the Heisman quarterback eight times and limit the once College Football Playoff contenders to just nine points in a 29-9 victory.

Louisville was held to just 220 yards of offense and was an astounding 2-for-17 on third down conversion attempts. Jackson ended his 2016 Heisman season with just 10-of-27 passing for 153 yards without a score. Jackson rushed for a net-gain of 33 yards despite being taken down eight times. Tashawn Bower recorded three of those sacks, and Arden Kelly had two more. And check out how Jamal Adams tracked down Jackson on this play (look where Adams starts the play)…

LSU was playing without running back Leonard Fournette, but Derrius Guice was ready to lead the offense with 138 rushing yards and a touchdown. As a result, Guice ended the season as the SEC’s rushing leader, just nudging his way past Mississippi State quarterback Nick Fitzgerald. Guice will be back for the 2017 season, which means LSU should have one of the top running backs to utilize in its offense, and that is a very good thing.

LSU will now once again ride this wave of optimism and look to build on that in the offseason leading up to the start of the 2017 season. This is now Ed Orgeron‘s program and he will be adding one of the top offensive coordinators to the staff in Matt Canada, to go along with already having one of the top defensive coordinators in Dave Aranda. The addition of Canada should help solve some concerns with the LSU offense, although trusting the running game is a nice luxury to have in 2017. LSU will begin the 2017 season in Houston for a neutral-site game against BYU on Saturday, September 2, 2017. LSU will have a challenging SEC schedule next season with road games at Florida (thanks to the rescheduling development this season), Alabama and Tennessee.

As for Louisville, there is still plenty to be optimistic about with Jackson returning for a follow-up season to his Heisman Trophy season. The luster on the 2016 season will be dulled as a result of how this season ended for the Cardinals, but Louisville will get a terrific opportunity to get started on a fast track to lighting things up on offense next season. The Cardinals begin the 2017 season on September 2, 2017 in Indianapolis against Purdue (with new head coach Jeff Brohm at the helm), followed, potentially, by two ACC contests (the ACC schedule has yet to be confirmed). Louisville will also host Kent State and Murray State in non-conference play, which should be two relatively easy wins with opportunities to pile up big offensive stats. Louisville will get Clemson at home and Florida State on the road in ACC Atlantic play. And, just because it had become a bit of a story lately, Louisville travels to Wake Forest next season.

Who will be the favorite for the Heisman Trophy in 2017? How about Lamar Jackson?

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Louisville quarterback Lamar Jackson will now have an opportunity to do something no quarterback has ever done. Jackson will attempt to become the first quarterback in the history of the Heisman Trophy to win the award a second time. And considering how weel his 2016 season started (despite sputtering in the end), the hype machine will be in full force in 2017 out of Louisville. History will not be on his side of course, as there has been just one two-time Heisman Trophy winner (Archie Griffin of Ohio State).

Recent quarterbacks who have come up short of winning a second Heisman Trophy have included Sam Bradford, Tim Tebow and Johnny Manziel. Jackson should have some stiff competition to pose with the stiff-arm trophy in 2017, including at the quarterback position alone. For starters, 2016 Heisman Trophy finalist Baker Mayfield will be back at Oklahoma with a chance to pick up where he has left this season, and that will include a second crack against Ohio State (in Columbus).

Other quarterbacks that should be in the conversation will include USC’s Sam Darnold, Washington’s Jake Browning and perhaps UCLA’s Josh Rosen out of the Pac-12. Alabama’s Jalen Hurts will certainly garner some attention, as will Penn State’s Trace McSorley) and Ohio State’s J.T. Barrett if he returns in 2017. And with Tom Herman the QB Whisperer taking over the show in Austin, look for a big year from Texas quarterback Shane Buechele to catch some eyes.

Running backs have lost their edge in the Heisman Trophy game over the last 15 years, but Saquon Barkley of Penn State, Derrius Guice of LSU and Kamryn Pettway of Auburn may be worth watching closely. Ohio State’s biggest playmaker, Kurtis Samuel, should be in the conversation as well. And for those who insist on throwing a defensive player in the mix, Houston’s Ed Olliver will be the name to watch, although a defensive player from a Group of Five program likely has as minimal a chance to win the Heisman Trophy as there exists. USC’s Adoree’ Jackson isn’t shy about starting his own campaign either.

But the fun part about the Heisman Trophy conversation every season is seeing which player pops up out of nowhere to take the college football world by storm. That will likely be the case in the month of September, but it is anyone’s guess who it may be. Or maybe Jackson will have what it takes to make history.

No. 23 Florida clinches SEC East with goal line stand at No. 16 LSU

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The wait appeared to be worth it for No. 23 Florida (8-2, 6-2 SEC) as the Gators clinched the SEC East with a 13-10 victory on the road against No. 16 LSU (6-4, 4-3 SEC). The game, originally scheduled to be played in Gainesville earlier this year but was rescheduled due to a hurricane, was quite the physical one that saw the Gators fund an edge on the ground in the fourth quarter. A 26-yard field goal by Eddy Pineiro with 4:37 to play gave the Gators a lead and the special teams unit recovered a fumble by LSU on the ensuing kickoff to run some more clock. But it was a goal-line stand on the final play of the game that would put the game in the win column for the Gators.

Down 16-10, LSU had the football with a first-and-goal at the seven-yard line and got two plays from the one-yard line to punch it in for a game-tying touchdown and potential game-winning PAT, but the Gators thwarted the Tigers when Derrius Guice lept over the pile and was stopped short of the goal line on the final play of the game.

Jordan Scarlett rushed for 108 yards and freshman Lamical Perine showed he can carry a pile on a key late drive. The play of the game, however, came shortly after LSU botched a field goal try and had a desperation pass by holder Josh Growden fall incomplete to allow Florida to take over from their two-yard line. Austin Appleby unloaded for a deep ball down the right sideline to Tyrie Cleveland, who broke a tackle and raced his way the remaining distance of the field for a 98-yard game-changing play to finish off a 10-point swing. The 98-yard scoring play more than doubled Florida’s offensive output at that point in the third quarter (68 total offensive yards before the play).

LSU running back Leonard Fournette was not scheduled to play today but reportedly convinced Ed Orgeron to allow him to play after a pregame dustup lit a fire under the banged-up Fournette. Fournette carried the football 12 times for 40 yards.

With the win, Florida clinches its second-straight SEC East Division title, which means the Gators are heading to Atlanta for a repeat of last year’s SEC Championship Game against SEC West champion Alabama. Alabama clinched the West last week with a win and an Auburn loss. It will be the first repeat SEC Championship Game matchup since Alabama and Florida clashed in the 2008 and 2009 conference championship games, although both of those games were between the top two teams in the country those seasons. Alabama may be the top team this year, but Florida will likely be outside the top 10. The SEC East hasn’t had a representative in the top 10 for the title game since No. 5 Missouri in 2013. Alabama and Florida have also met in the SEC Championship Game eight times prior to this season. Each team has won four meetings.

Before the SEC Championship Game, Florida will play rival Florida State next week in Tallahassee. LSU will close out its regular season on the road against Texas A&M.

LSU and Florida one half through a defensive slobber knocker

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The tempers between Florida and LSU got a little carried away before the game ever started, leading LSU running back Leonard Fournette to suit up on a day he was not expected to be available. It turned out Fournette served as nothing more than a decoy to start the game for the Tigers. Fournette has carried the football five times for 25 yards as the defenses for the Gators and LSU are setting the tone in this one. LSU leads Florida at the half, 7-3.

LSU scored the lone touchdown of the half on their first possession of the game. Derrius Guice punched it in from the one-yard line at the end of a 12-play drive covering 80 yards. With the Tigers once again sniffing a touchdown in the second quarter, Guice had the ball knocked out of his hands, allowing Florida to come up with a much-needed turnover. With the Gators lacking any offensive punch though, the turnover yielded nothing more than changing the field position.

Florida can clinch the SEC East Division with a win in Baton Rouge. If the offense cannot score points today then Florida will have to hope Tennessee loses either one of their final two games this season in order to book a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship Game against Alabama.

No. 7 LSU playing like SEC’s best playoff contender

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Nobody should be foolish enough to ignore Alabama, Ole Miss, Texas A&M or Florida, but it No. 7 LSU (5-0, 3-0) is currently playing like the team with the best chance to represent the SEC in the College Football Playoff. Playing a transplanted road game at home in Baton Rouge, LSU pulled away from South Carolina (2-4, 0-4 SEC) to win 45-24 to remain undefeated with plenty of key games still to play.

Leonard Fournette did not rush for his weekly 200 yards, as he has done the last couple of weeks, but he did go for 158 yards and a touchdown, an 87-yard touchdown run on the second play of the second half to give LSU a 24-10 lead. That lead would grow to 31-10 before South Carolina started to chip away a bit. The damage had been done though and LSU was able to give Fournette a bit of a rest later in the half. That gave Derrius Guice a chance to shine, with 109 rushing yards and a touchdown.

LSU even got a productive afternoon from the quarterback, Brandon Harris. Harris completed 17 of 29 pass attempts for 229 yards, a new career high, and two touchdowns. Harris did not throw an interception either, showing there is potential for LSU’s passing game to get the job done as well. LSU should stick to the running game first and use the passing game as a compliment to whatever Fournette does. Then it falls on the LSU defense, which only allowed 17 points to South Carolina (Gamecocks had one special teams TD) and allowed just 12 first downs. LSU’s defense may not be quite up to the bar we have seen past LSU defensive units, but this Tigers team can still make somethings happen and that makes them as dangerous as any team in the SEC.

Between having a Heisman Trophy candidate running back, a potentially serviceable passing game and a well-rounded defense, what’s not to like about LSU? It might be the schedule.

Next week LSU hosts a rising Florida Gators squad that could be undefeated (Florida visiting Missouri tonight) and the Tigers later will make road trips to Alabama and Ole Miss. Both key SEC West road tests will be key, not to mention the regular season finale at home against Texas A&M. Consistency will be the key to LSU’s SEC and potential playoff success. Right now, LSU is playing like one fo the best teams in the conference, but can they keep it going?

South Carolina, meanwhile, is in danger of falling out of postseason bowl contention. Now at 2-4, South Carolina must win four of their final six games this season. The second half of the schedule includes games against Texas A&M, Florida and Clemson and a road game at Tennessee. South Carolina has not missed the postseason since 2007. This is also the first time Steve Spurrier has started 0-4 in SEC play in his career.