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LSU Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow (9) runs the ball as Alabama Crimson Tide defensive lineman Raekwon Davis (99) competes during second half action in Baton Rouge on Saturday, November 3, 2018. The Alabama Crimson Tide defeated the LSU Tigers 20-09. (Photo by Brett Duke, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune)

Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa may be the darling of nearly every NFL mock draft, but he might not even be the best player in the showdown with LSU this weekend. 

That honor goes to Tigers quarterback Joe Burrow, according to ESPN's ranking of the top 25 players set to play in the game.

The list, based on data from Pro Football Focus and impact on team success, unsurprisingly begins with the two Heisman candidates.

"Broadway Jeaux has been unstoppable all season long for the Bayou Bengals and has his team poised to contend for the SEC West throne," read the ranking's assessment of Burrow, compiled by Cam Mellor. "He's the nation's highest-graded quarterback on passes targeted at least 10 yards downfield through 10 weeks and has completed at least 71.1% of his passes in every contest this year."

And Burrow is far from the only high-caliber LSU player appearing at the top of the list. Freshman Derek Stingley Jr. came in at No. 3 behind Tagovailoa. The next LSU representative was Tigers wide receiver Justin Jefferson, who came in at No. 5 behind Alabama cornerback Trevon Diggs. 

"He is every bit a lockdown corner," reads the assessment of Stingley, who they have graded as the No. 2 cornerback in all of college football. 

Alabama does hold the slight edge overall, according to the ranking, with 14 of the top 25 players in the game. 

The other eight LSU players were: 

  • No. 9: CB Kristian Fulton
  • No. 12: S Grant Delpit
  • No. 14: WR Ja'Marr Chase
  • No. 18: WR Terrace Marshall
  • No. 20: LB Patrick Queen
  • No. 21: EDGE K'Lavon Chaisson
  • No. 24: OG Adrian Magee
  • No. 25: RB Clyde Edwards-Helaire

The game pits No. 1 LSU against No. 2 Alabama for the first time since the 2011 season. That game doubles as the last time the Tigers defeated the Crimson Tide, with Jordan Jefferson — the older brother of Justin — splitting the duties at quarterback. 

In the eyes of the College Football Playoff committee the game is slightly less monumental, with LSU at No. 2 and Alabama No. 3 in the Tuesday unveiling of the first CFP rankings of this season. 

LSU was trending as a 6.5-point underdog in the game, which is scheduled to kick off at 2:30 p.m. inside Bryant-Denny Stadium (CBS). 

For the full rankings (ESPN+), click here


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Email Jeff Nowak at jnowak@theadvocate.com

Twitter: @Jeff_Nowak