Contextualizing LSU’s Passing Renaissance Under Joe Burrow After The Tigers Beat Texas

LSU has made offense fun again and Texas is, in fact, Not Back.

Those are the top-line takeaways from Week 2’s top-10 matchup in Austin as the No. 6 Tigers left with a 45-38 win over the No. 9 Longhorns in a game that left the over/under of 57.5 points in the dust thanks to 39 combined points in the fourth quarter.

LSU quarterback Joe Burrow completed 31-of-39 passes for 471 yards, four touchdowns and one interception, suggesting his Week 1 stat line (23/27, 278 yards, five touchdowns) against Georgia Southern was proof of LSU’s more wide-open offensive system and the presence of a more dangerous Burrow in his second year in Baton Rouge.

In Burrow’s last four games, which includes the infamous seven-overtime game at Texas A&M and LSU’s bowl win over UCF, LSU’s quarterback has thrown for 1,413 yards and 16 touchdowns with just two interceptions.

For reference, in Burrow’s first four games in an LSU uniform, he completed 52-of-106 passes (49.0%) for 731 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions.

Play along for a minute as we compare the season-long stat lines of two quarterbacks:

Quarterback A: 69.0%, 4,361 passing yards, 42 touchdowns, seven interceptions

Quarterback B: 72.4%, 4,239 passing yards, 48 touchdowns, six interceptions

 

Quarterback A was 2018 Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray.

Quarterback B is a hypothetical 12-game regular season stat line, extrapolated from Burrow’s last four games. That’s not to say Burrow is going to win the Heisman Trophy this season (although there’s no reason why he couldn’t finish in the top 10 in the Heisman voting this year if he keeps up his current pace through the air) but it shows the significant improvement he’s made since arriving in Baton Rouge as a grad transfer from Ohio State and the potential he might have if he exceeds even LSU fans’ wildest expectations.

Burrow’s 471 passing yards against Texas are the second-most by an LSU quarterback this century, only behind Rohan Davey’s 528 passing yards at Alabama in 2001 and it was just the 22nd game since the start of the 2000 season that a Tigers signal-caller has thrown for at least 300 yards, according to Sports Reference.

That’s an average of just over one 300-yard passing game per season since 2000, including a stretch from November 3, 2007 to September 28, 2013 in which no LSU quarterback eclipsed the mark between Matt Flynn and Zach Mettenberger.

Burrow is responsible for three of the 10 games since 2000 in which an LSU quarterback has thrown at least four touchdowns – a statistical achievement the school hadn’t seen prior to Burrow’s arrival since Mettenberger in 2013.

Saturday night will also go down in LSU lore because the Tigers had three 100-yard receivers – three who had at least six receptions and at least 120 receiving yards, to be exact. The trio of Justin Jefferson (nine receptions for 163 yards and three touchdowns), Ja’Marr Chase (eight receptions for 147 yards) and Terrace Marshall Jr. (six receptions for 123 yards and a touchdown) were responsible for the majority of Burrow’s completions.

This is the school that ranked 97th, 107th, 106th, 94th, 45th, 116th, 106th, 101st, 84th and 67th nationally in passing yards per game from 2009 to 2018, respectively, only cracking the top 50 with Mettenberger.

Defense hasn’t been the issue in Baton Rouge. During that same stretch, LSU has ranked 11th, 11th, 2nd, 12th, 21st, 4th, 41st, 5th, 14th and 26th nationally in points allowed per game.

But with improved quarterback play and a really talented receiving corps, maybe this is the season that things are different for LSU.

Not that the the Tigers have been bad by any means – their floor since 2000 has been 8-4, which is the sign of an elite program that’s bigger than any one coach or quarterback – but they haven’t won at least 10 regular season games since 2012 and they haven’t had a top-five finish since 2011, when they lost in the BCS Championship.

Part of that drought is due to the perils of playing in the SEC West, where Alabama, Auburn, Texas A&M and Mississippi State also reside. If those same LSU teams from years past were placed in, say, the Big Ten West, surely their national title outlook could’ve been different.

But with a passing attack that appears to be as explosive as any the Tigers have had in at least a half-decade, if not longer, maybe this LSU team is built to withstand the gauntlet that is an SEC West schedule and make a serious push for its first College Football Playoff appearance.

An emphatic road win at Texas was a good place to start.

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