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Big Game Joe Burrow

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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The numbers, more staggering when measured against elite competition, clearly point to Burrow being one of the best big game QBs in college football history.

The most impressive aspect of Joe Burrow's awe-inspiring, record-setting production isn't all that he has done, rather who he has done it against. Fresh off an unfathomable 403 passing yards and seven touchdowns in the first half of LSU's Peach Bowl blowout of Oklahoma, the newly-minted Heisman Trophy winner has a resume, facing ranked teams, college football has never before seen. Burrow is the game's best story, an Ohio State-transfer who, dating back to late last season, has been putting up historic numbers at an unprecedented pace.

Undefeated in 2019, and boosted by the momentum of the signature performance of his career, "Big Game" Joe Burrow is ready for the brightest spotlight of them all.

What Burrow has done against elite competition is what sets him apart historically. Burrow, simply put, has been at his absolute best on the big stage; the extent of that statement comes with all-time affirmation. Depending upon what Burrow does in the upcoming national championship game versus Clemson, some are arguing he may be having college football's greatest season ever. It's a conversation certainly worth having at this point, one underlined by both his macro and micro statistics.

Burrow has gone up against five teams currently ranked in the Associated Press national top nine. In those contests, he has been downright extraordinary: 77.5% passing, 369.8  passing yards per game, 18 touchdowns, one interception, 10.2 yards per attempt, 201 rushing yards and two rushing scores, all with LSU going 5-0 and averaging 42.2 points per game. Add in a win over Texas, ranked 9th when the Tigers played them in Austin in September, with Burrow completing 31-of-39 throws for 471 yards and four touchdowns, and the numbers are even more impressive. 

Keep in mind, Burrow finished last season with 394 yards passing and four touchdowns in pacing LSU to a Fiesta Bowl win over Central Florida, ending the nation's longest winning streak, in a showcase that was a springboard forward and a sign of things to come. He and the Tigers have embraced the bright lights ever since.

Burrow and LSU, alike, continue to make the most of such opportunities. From head coach Ed Orgeron on the sidelines to Burrow on the field, pressure has come with performance for the Tigers. Their quarterback has been a historic tone-setter in that regard. His message, focusong on a run at a championship, has been as consistent as his play.  

In total, Burrow, in six games against top nine teams this fall, completed 77.8% of his passes, which would be a new college football all-time mark, for 2,320 yards, with 22 touchdowns and two interceptions. LSU won every game, only two of which were played in Baton Rouge. Burrow won in the 7th and 8th largest stadiums in the country, also leading the Tigers to victory on two of the biggest stages around in the SEC Championship Game and Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl; just like in Tempe last year, Burrow was named MVP both times.

Counting only Burrow's production from those six games against top nine opponents, his passer rating would be 197.05. For point of reference, the current single season passer rating record is 199.44, set by Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa this past year. 

The Texas outing aside, using numbers compiled against foes currently ranked, five teams all slotted in the AP top nine, Burrow's work has just been astonishing. He leads the nation in quarterback rating, passing yards, completion percentage and touchdowns and ranks second in passing yards per game and yards per attempt in outings against ranked teams. Four of the opponents Burrow faced, Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Georgia, still rank in the national top 15 in total defense. 

Burrow has turned the spotlight into a sprint around the track, with he, in some cases, nearly lapping the field.

Most specifically and amazingly, Burrow's College Football Playoff debut was one that shattered all records and any myth of a Heisman curse. He, as mentioned, topped the 400-yard mark and threw seven touchdown passes in the first half alone against an Oklahoma defense that had not allowed a 300-yard passer all season. Ultimately, Burrow became the first FBS player ever to be responsible for eight total scores in a bowl game and set a new CFP record with 493 passing yards, among other records. He threw four touchdown passes to wide receiver Justin Jefferson.

Burrow made a semifinal game look like a video game.

Up next, for Burrow, is a chance at more history in the form of more hardware, this being the trophy, with all due respect to the Heisman, he has had his eyes on all season. Burrow and LSU will meet defending national champion Clemson, riding a 29-game win streak, in this year's highly-anticipated title bout. He will square off against a quarterback in Trevor Lawrence, who just led his Tigers past Burrow's former team in Ohio State, who has never lost a game in his college career.

Not long after a celebratory and emotional senior day at LSU, Burrow will play the final contest of his college career not far from campus. Nearby New Orleans awaits as the site for the national title game; the Tigers are 2-0 there when playing for it all.

The numbers, even more staggering when measured against elite competition, clearly point to Burrow being one of the best big game quarterbacks in college football history. He will have one more chance to add to that legacy, and possibly have it stand alone, in a fitting championship game showcase. Leading up to that moment, he has been as good as it gets.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports