For much of LSU’s eight-game losing streak to Alabama, there’s been a perception, and maybe some truth, that Alabama has had the clear edge at quarterback, whether it was Tua Tagovailoa or Jalen Hurts and others before them.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron said all championship teams he’s been a part of have been led by a great quarterback.
No. 1 LSU vs. No. 2 Alabama. Need much more than that?
The top-ranked Tigers head to Bryant-Denny Stadium ranked No. 1 in the nation for the first time since the 2011 "Game of the Century," won by LSU 9-6.
Orgeron is glad that he has Joe Burrow as the Tigers head into one of the biggest games of both Orgeron and Burrow’s careers — against Tua Tagovailoa and the Alabama Crimson Tide.
“Whether he was very talented, whether he had grit and character or toughness, I think our quarterback has it all,” Orgeron said. “Obviously Tua is an outstanding quarterback. I think the one thing that you'll find with both quarterbacks that I know of, because I recruited Tua too; they're team players. It's about their football team, it's about winning, and they're unselfish. I think that's what makes both of these guys outstanding football players.”
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Burrow has closed that gap at quarterback between the programs. He is second in the nation in yards passing with 2,805, second in touchdowns with 30 and leads the nation in completion percentage at 78.8.
Orgeron even called him a top-five recruit in LSU history.
“Joe is the reason we're able to have the success we're having on offense with the spread offense,” Orgeron said. “Because he’s the leader on the field, he's a quarterback on the field, he's very talented. I do believe he's this good for sure or better than the quarterback we're playing. But the only way to answer that is on the field.”
Burrow and Orgeron know that there may be bigger games down the road, but they know the challenge that comes with facing Alabama.
Tagovailoa’s legacy was written on second-and-26 two years ago, when he threw a touchdown pass to win the 2017 national championship game in overtime against Georgia. He was the Heisman runner-up in 2018 and opened the 2019 season as the front-runner.
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Peer through the gates of Bryant-Denny Stadium and there's a glimpse of where LSU last scored against Alabama.
Burrow has begun to write his legacy — a Fiesta Bowl win over Central Florida in 2018 and a game-sealing touchdown on third-and-17 at Texas earlier this season — but he has a chance to cement it Saturday in Tuscaloosa, as he looks to become the first LSU quarterback since 2011 to lead the Tigers to victory over the Crimson Tide.
Burrow has the opportunity to lead his team to a national championship from start to finish, but he has to go through Tagovailoa and Alabama first.
“I wouldn’t say there’s a mental hurdle,” Burrow said. “We’re really confident in our abilities, and we’re really confident in our coaching staff and our scheme as well. We know the kind of offense we are, so we got to go out and face them. But they have to come out and face us, too.”
In his second year facing the Crimson Tide, Burrow is working to reverse one of his worst performances at LSU in a 29-0 loss to Alabama at home last season. Burrow was 18 of 35 for 184 yards and an interception in that game.
What nobody knew, not even most of Burrow’s teammates, is that he played through a shoulder injury that night. LSU center Lloyd Cushenberry said he did not even know about Burrow’s injured shoulder until reporters mentioned it to him.
“I guess he’s so tough, he hid it well,” Cushenberry said.
There is a saying: It is the fate of glass to break.
Orgeron said it was no surprise Burrow played through the injury. Burrow will play with any injury, no matter how severe, because that’s just the type of competitor he is.
“I just try to bring some toughness and leadership to the team,” Burrow said. “I just try to bring 100% every day and try to prepare the way that I think enables us to be successful on Saturdays. So, I’m going to bring toughness and I’m going to bring leadership, and I think that’s all you can ask for from a quarterback.”
Whatever happens on the field Saturday afternoon, Orgeron believes this game can and will influence the Heisman race between Burrow and Tagovailoa, even just a little.
“I’ve been a part of four Heisman winners,” Orgeron said. “I remember Carson Palmer (of USC) beating Notre Dame in a big game at the end and won the Heisman. I think it puts you on a national stage, and I think it helps you, and I do believe that obviously there are two big Heisman candidates. The one that plays the best and wins the game should have a shot to win it.”