Joe Burrow vs. Jake Fromm: Which QB wins SEC Championship?
Three months ago, you would have been laughed out of the room if you argued that Joe Burrow was a better quarterback than Jake Fromm.
Now, you’d be laughed out of the room if you argued that anybody in college football was a better quarterback than Burrow.
Life changes quickly in the SEC. Life changed quickly for Burrow. Nobody thought he was going to have a historic year in the SEC that’s going to be remembered in the same regard as Tim Tebow in 2008, Cam Newton in 2010 and Johnny Manziel in 2012. Burrow is an LSU legend.
Fromm is … complicated. He’s playing in his 3rd consecutive SEC Championship, which is an absurd feat. But to compare the year he’s having to Burrow’s would be foolish. Both play in drastically different offenses, which explains partially why Fromm’s numbers are about half of Burrow’s.
None of that is in question. What is in question is which quarterback will have the better 60 minutes on Saturday.
Some would argue that’s not up for debate, either. Based on everything we’ve seen this year, Burrow will be that guy. Some probably didn’t even open this story because it’s an open and shut case.
Here is why it’s not.
I think it’s at least worth breaking down because Fromm is obviously outmatched in terms of the system and weapons around him, but the guy has played in 5 big-time games. What are “big-time games,” you ask? I consider a conference championship or a New Year’s 6 Bowl a “big-time game.” In that department, Fromm has Burrow out-kicked 5-1.
What are Fromm’s numbers in said big-time games, you ask?
- 4 of 5 games at least 60%
- 230 passing yards/game
- 11-3 TD-INT ratio
- 2-3 record
I’d argue that considering the competition, that’s not bad. It’s not “stop the presses good,” but it’s pretty solid. Five of those games were decided by 1 possession, so any belief that Fromm has never had to make key throws late in games is simply wrong.
The sample size with Burrow is obviously just the Fiesta Bowl against UCF last year, and he was brilliant after his pick-6 (394 passing yards and 4 TDs). That’s what helped fuel a lot of the offseason belief that he was due for a step up. Little did we know it would be this drastic.
(I know you’re probably thinking by my metric, Notre Dame-Georgia and LSU-Alabama not being “big-time games” is ridiculous. Of course those were crazy important. But as it relates to post-regular season, high-stakes neutral-site games, it’s a different set of circumstances.)
All of that big-game experience came with different offensive play-callers, though. Well, at least for LSU, it was a different system. This will be the first big-time game that Fromm has James Coley, and this will be the first big-time game that Burrow has Joe Brady.
Advantage, Brady. Duh.
This is probably also a time to point out that while these quarterbacks faced off last year — LSU prevented it from being much of a game — I think it’s unrealistic to expect the exact same result because of the aforementioned Brady/Coley element, as well as the fact that this game isn’t in Death Valley:
LSU and Georgia will meet in the SEC Championship on Saturday.
— SEConCBS (@SEConCBS) December 2, 2019
What I will say, though, is that this isn’t necessarily “the better QB will win this game.” It’s more “the QB who does a better job dealing with their respective matchup will win this game.” If Fromm and Burrow both had to face Georgia’s defense, give me Burrow all day, every day. That’s not the case, though.
Fromm is facing an LSU defense that ranks No. 57 against the pass, but it’s a pass defense that looked considerably better with a healthy Grant Delpit against Texas A&M. Also dealing with the likes of Derek Stingley and Kristian Fulton makes Fromm and his hesitancy to throw 50-50 balls to his non-Lawrence Cager receivers seem that much more important.
It’s worth noting that Fromm faced 5 pass defenses that rank among the top 20 nationally. Burrow, on the other hand, only faced 2 in the top 40. Of course a number like that can be skewed because Burrow is part of the reason why certain pass defenses aren’t in the top 40. He’s more likely to contribute to that than Fromm.
I’d argue that while Burrow diced up the Alabama pass defense, it isn’t what it once was and the Florida team that was missing Jon Greenard and Jabari Zuniga wasn’t the top-20 defense that we saw when they were healthy. Don’t get it twisted. I’m not trying to take away anything that Burrow did this year. He’s going to win the Heisman Trophy, and he deserves to.
But is it crazy to suggest Georgia is the best defense he’s seen so far? I don’t think so.
(And for what it’s worth, Ian Book is the best quarterback that Georgia faced this year, and he’s several tiers below Burrow.)
Georgia might not bring edge pressure the way Florida does (when healthy), and they might not have defensive line stars like Derrick Brown and Marlon Davidson, but can Kirby Smart’s defense take away Burrow’s ability to scramble to find his open receivers? That might be the most underrated thing he does. Burrow extends plays and keeps his eyes downfield in ways that few people do at the position.
Fromm has rarely thrown downfield on his 1st or 2nd read this year, much less when the play breaks down. That’s part of the reason Burrow will have the edge Saturday.
Think about this. If there was some sort of in-game adversity to deal with, who would you bet on to overcome it? That could be in the form of a star receiver going down, or maybe the other team goes up 14-0 in the 1st quarter. It could be as simple as self-induced in-game adversity with an awful first half.
Burrow is the better bet to overcome that. Plain and simple.
That’s not a knock at Fromm, who I’ve been a believer of and defended him amidst the dip in passing game numbers. He’s a major reason I picked Georgia to win the national championship before the start of the season. But Burrow has simply been on a different level this year.
It feels like if Georgia is celebrating an SEC Championship by day’s end, it’ll be because Fromm played the game of his life.
That’s what it felt like in last year’s SEC Championship against Alabama, and Fromm did everything in his power for most of that game. He certainly outplayed Tua Tagovailoa until he went down. That still wasn’t enough. I wouldn’t be surprised if a strong effort comes up short again.
LSU’s margin for error in this game is that much greater than Georgia’s, and the way the offenses are built are the main reason for that. Burrow is too poised and too confident in this offense to flounder for 60 minutes.
So far, 2019 has belonged to Burrow. What’s another day?