Joe Burrow and LSU belong to history now

Just short of 20 months ago, a little-known backup college football quarterback announced he was transferring from Ohio State to LSU. The announcement didn’t create a ton of waves, mainly because in the previous three years, one as a redshirt, Joe Burrow had attempted just 39 passes.

On Monday night, with one of the most incredible transformations in the sport’s history complete, Burrow celebrated immortality, marching off toward the No. 1 pick in the NFL Draft in possession of a national championship, a flawless season, the Heisman Trophy, and a spot among the greats.

They’ve been playing college football for a heck of a long time, both in general and down at the southern tip of Louisiana where they love the game so much. Yet as much as we reflect wistfully upon the magic of yesteryear, it is important to recognize greatness when it unfolds before our eyes.

Clemson put up a fight at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, but ultimately it was no match for the LSU offensive juggernaut, which showcased a level of innovation, flow and hunger for the end zone worthy of where Burrow will soon end up: the NFL.

Burrow threw for 463 yards and had six total touchdowns, five of them with his laser-guided cannon of an arm. It took his tally for the campaign to 60, a new single-season FBS record. But it’s Burrow’s spirit that shines even brighter than his numbers. He’s clinical without being cold, calm without being detached, and that passion is part of why this incarnation of LSU has a special feel to it.

Before the confetti had finished falling, the Tigers — with their 42-25 win and seasonal record of 15-0 — were already being talked about alongside 1995 Nebraska and 2001 Miami as one of the greatest college football teams ever.

No wonder. It’s hard to see how they could have done much more, operating out of the stacked SEC and charging their way through, getting stronger with each step and accumulating momentum with every fresh triumph.

“This is special,” Burrow said. “This doesn’t come around every year. This is a special group of guys that came together.”

Alabama went tumbling in their wake — an Alabama with a stud quarterback of its own in Tua Tagovailoa, an Alabama that had ridden roughshod over the rivalry eight straight times. Head coach Ed Orgeron cared little for reputations and made rubbing that mindset off onto his players a priority.

A formidable Georgia team went down too, in a lopsided SEC championship game, as did the Big 12 champion Oklahoma in a playoff semifinal blowout. And finally, it was the defending national champion, undefeated for a long, long time, standing in the way.

But neither Dabo Swinney, nor quarterback Trevor Lawrence, nor Clemson’s defensive coordinating wizard Brent Venables had an answer that lasted long enough to slow LSU, or Burrow.

Venables threw different looks at Burrow, but it took him little more than a quarter to work them out. When he cut the gap to 17-14 by running one in himself, it felt like momentum had shifted. When he found Ja’Marr Chase with a perfect pass to put his team ahead for the first time, there was only going to be one winner.

“They had a great plan coming in,” Burrow said. “Brent Venables is the best in the country at what he does. He was mixing up the looks. I couldn’t figure out where they were blitzing from all night.”

It didn’t matter, for LSU and Burrow had perfected an offensive system for which there seems to be no answer. It was relentlessly aggressive, permanently dangerous, and with the capacity for soul-sucking downfield plays that can transform both a drive and a game.

Burrow was fearless and never shirked, not even when he got crushed in the ribs towards the end of the first half. It was a risk-reward scenario: he took the shot a moment after delivering the dagger pass to Thaddeus Moss that was one of the night’s highlights.

Afterwards, Burrow smoked a cigar in the locker room, vowed to enjoy it all for a couple of days, and he’ll hear no shortage of plaudits. FOX’s Matt Leinart, himself a former Heisman winner, touted Burrow’s season as the best ever.

“What Joe Burrow has done is nothing short of amazing,” FS1’s Chris Canty said on First Things First. “He put his team in a position to win the national championship the same year he won the Heisman and set the single-season record for most passing TDs. That’s as impressive as we’ve seen from any college QB.”

What next, then? For LSU, there is a fresh vibe of success around the place and all the swagger that comes with being No 1. But there will need to be some kind of a reboot, with Burrow and several seniors gone. Clemson, with its loaded recruiting class, is already a favorite for 2020.

For Burrow, it seems to be a one-way path to Cincinnati, where the Bengals hold the top pick in the draft and appear determined to use it to select him. There is no guarantee of college success transferring to the pros, but having played in what is essentially an NFL system, you have to like his chances.

It seemed like he burst onto the scene, having only appeared on our radars last season and only become a superstar in the past few months. Yet the Burrow story stretches back much further, and his tale is one of a man who doesn’t give up when things get tough — a trait that will stand him in good stead in the NFL.

“This,” he said on Monday, pausing to collect his thoughts and emotions, “was a long time coming.”

Source: Fox Sports

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