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A Real Heisman Long Shot: The Evolution of Joe Burrow

LSU Tigers Joe Burrow Heisman Trophy

In 2017, the LSU offense averaged 391 yards a game and in 2018 the Tigers got 402 a game, but this season they are putting up an astonishing 540 yards a game. The main focal point for this offensive outburst is the evolution of senior quarterback Joe Burrow.

Burrow through seven games is completing an amazing 80 percent of his passes, has 2,500 passing yards, 31 total touchdowns and a QB rating of 216, and by the way is now the odds leader to win the 2019 Heisman Trophy.

In doing my research for this article, I came across Heisman odds from the Westgate-Las Vegas back in February when Tua Tagovailoa was +250, Trevor Lawrence was +300, new Oklahoma QB Jalen Hurts was +600 and the list went on and on, except that list was missing one name and that’s LSU’s Joe Burrow.

Burrow had a nice campaign last year (2,500 yards and 12 TDs) but the transformation has been resounding. To start the season, he was found at some books at +20000, then had five touchdowns in the Tigers’ season opener against Georgia Southern.

But he really turned heads in his breakout performance with 471 yards and four touchdowns in a 45-38 win in Austin vs the No. 15-ranked Texas Longhorns. Burrow was unflappable, calm and collected in that contest and now is remarkably the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy and +200 to be the first pick in the 2020 NFL Draft heading into the Auburn game.

Just to show how much Burrow and the team has improved, last year wide receivers Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase combined for 67 receptions and six touchdowns. In seven games in 2019, those two already have 83 receptions and 18 touchdowns and LSU has the second-best passing attack in the nation.

After the Texas game, Burrow went from +5000 to +3000 for the Heisman and his odds have dropped every week since. He leads all viable candidates in passing yards and completion percentage and the elusive trophy no one predicted would be his will be his if just two more things happen.

First, LSU has to dispose of Auburn at home. In last season’s game against Auburn, Burrow rallied the team from down 11 points late in the third quarter on the road to win 22-21.

The second thing won’t be that simple, not by a long shot, and that’s beating Alabama on the road. When these two bitter rivals met in Baton Rouge in 2018, Burrow and the Tigers were shut out 29-0 and he was sacked five times.

If Burrow can turn the tide (excuse the pun) one more time in his career and beat Tua and Nick Saban — Alabama hasn’t lost at home since Sept. 19, 2015, vs Mississippi — we will be talking about the hat trick for Burrow at that point … the hat trick being beating Alabama, winning the national championship and having the hardware handed over to him at the Downtown Athletic Club in New York City. I’m not ruling any of that out, because LSU is extremely talented in all facets of the game, but especially at quarterback.