You’ve seen the movie Back to the Future Part II, the one where they actually go to the future and Marty McFly steals the sports almanac book and it ends up in the hands of the bad guy. I can’t lie, I’ve always wanted that almanac. I fantasize about being able to go back in time and place a bet on a long shot to win something that I, being from the future, know is inevitable. The money I would get, the fame that would come from being the guy who could predict the future... that would be pretty cool. Among the bets I would place: the Giants beating the Patriots in the Super Bowl (twice), the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals to win the World Series (999-1 odds!) and if it stands, Joe Burrow winning the Heisman. Because no one, not even Marty McFly, could see this one coming.
In a year where transfer quarterbacks are putting up very productive seasons, one player has surprisingly carved his name in the Heisman discussion. 5th year senior Joe Burrow started his college career as a redshirt freshman for Ohio State but transfered to the Tigers last year in hopes of being named the starter. His first season in Purple and Yellow was efficient but not world beating as he threw up 2,894 yards on a 59% completion rate to go along with 16 touchdowns and 5 interceptions.
What a difference a year makes... This year, Burrow leads the way for the top ranked Tigers and is doing so in spectacular fashion. Through 8 games this year, Burrow has nearly doubled his touchdown total (29) and is competing nearly 80% of his passes, including stellar performances against Texas, Florida and Auburn. He currently sits at 2nd in the nation in both passing yards and total QBR. To top it off, he’s also holds the LSU record for touchdowns in a season just seven games into the 2019 campaign.
Coming out of Athens High School (Ohio) in 2015, Burrow was a top ten rated dual threat quarterback and committed to play at Ohio State. Initially serving as a back up to starter J.T. Barrett, Burrow ended up falling behind in the depth chart once it was clear Dwayne Haskins would take over the offense when Barrett left. Because he had already graduated Ohio State with a degree in consumer financial services, he was eligible to transfer and play right away at LSU, starting as a redshirt junior in 2018 for the Tigers.
Burrow’s play isn’t just turning heads in the SEC, according to ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper the Tigers QB is also seeing his stock rise on NFL draft boards. Kiper currently has him as the 14th best player and 3rd rated QB prospect in the draft, comparing him to former Cowboys QB Tony Romo due to his underrated ability to extend plays with his legs. He’s having the type of season few LSU quarterbacks have had and if he does get awarded with a Heisman nod, he will be just the 3rd player in school history to have such honor (only QB Billy Cannon won has won, in 1959).
One of the key attributes to Burrow’s game this season is how few mistakes he makes under pressure. His near 80% completion rating is accompanied with a low turnover rate, as he has only thrown four interceptions all year. Take a look at some of these stats for the year: in the first game of the season he went 23-27 for 278 yards and 5 TD’s; against #9 Texas he went 31-39 for 471 and 4 TD’s; and later in the year went 21-24 for 293 yards and 3 TD’s against #7 Florida. He’s completed over 85% of his passes in three games this year and is the first LSU QB to throw for at least 350 yards in three straight games, all while leading the Tigers offense to a whopping 49 points per game.
Perhaps the main reason for the change in Burrow’s game is the change in LSU’s offense, which incorporates a lot of RPO schemes, something that can excute in a highly efficient way as he can beat you with both his arm and his legs. At 6’3, 215 pounds he’s big enough to roll off incoming pass rushes and move the chains with his leg if he has to. He’s keen on reading defenses and with playmakers on the outside like WR’s Ja’Marr Chase, Justin Jefferson and Terrace Marshall, he has plenty of options to keep the offense firing on all cylinders. It’s one of the main reasons his draft stock has risen exponentially since July.
Burrow will face his biggest challenge of the year this upcoming weekend: a road game against #3 Alabama on Saturday and a chance to redeem himself after a poor game against the Tide the year before. It was Burrow’s first start against Nick Saban’s top ranked team and it was also the worst loss he has suffered as a starter, as the Tigers were shut out in a 29-0 game in which Burrow was playing with a separated shoulder. Players and coaches around Baton Rouge have referred to him as the toughest guy on the team, willing to do whatever it takes to win.
One way to win a Heisman is to beat another Heisman candidate, and the only other person standing in Burrow’s way is Tide QB Tua Tagovailoa, who has been banged up in recent weeks with a high ankle sprain. Burrow has a chance to not only cement his legacy in LSU glory, but a chance to take his team one step further to a national title... and maybe some personal hardware for himself. After beginning the year as a 200-1 long shot to win the Heisman, Vegas certainly likes his odds at the moment, making him the top choice to win the award as of today.
I’m not the only one who’s a fan of Back to the Future. Turns out, Joe Burrow is also a fan of time travel. Perhaps that might explain how he was able to correct his past mistakes and carve out a new destiny for himself? How else could you explain how he seems to know where everyone is on the field, and make the right play in crucial situations? Maybe he’s seen a future where he’s the best player on the best team in the country? Whatever the case, we won’t have to wait much longer to find out if Burrow has what it takes to join the Heisman fraternity.
Dec 8, 2019; Grapevine, TX, USA; College football playoff selection committee chairman Rob Mullens speaks to the media during selection Sunday at the Gaylord Texan hotel. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports