Could LSU's all-decade defense slow down Joe Burrow and all-decade offense?
No opposing defense was able to slow down Joe Burrow enough to defeat LSU this season.
Maybe the Tigers’ all-decade defense could.
Burrow and LSU’s record-setting passing game are the primary reasons the Tigers won the 2019 national championship. But for most of this decade, it has been the LSU defense that has been the superior unit.
This year’s offense has narrowed the gap quite a bit between the Tigers’ all-decade offense and their all-decade defense.
Imagine Burrow, who won the Heisman Trophy by a record margin and set an FBS record with 60 TD passes, having an even better line to work behind, and an even better group of running backs to balance the offense, and an even deeper group of pass-catchers to target. (His team would include Ja’Marr Chase and Justin Jefferson, who finished with an SEC-record 20 TD receptions and 18, respectively.)
Then imagine a much deeper and much more complete defense than anything Burrow has faced this season – better than Florida, better than Auburn, better than Alabama, better than Georgia, certainly better than Oklahoma and even better than Clemson.
It would be quite a battle – in fact it would be a battle of the decade.
Here’s who might win a matchup of LSU’s all-decade offense and LSU’s all-decade defense.
As efficient, productive and explosive as the LSU passing game was this season, the all-decade offense would be even more so.
Chase and Jefferson would be lining up with Odell Beckham Jr., Jarvin Landry and D.J. Chark. Or maybe a tight end such as Foster Moreau or Thaddeus Moss would grab one of those spots. Or Rueben Randle, who was the top pass catcher on the 2011 powerhouse.
Sending any combination of 5 of those players into routes would make it tempting to throw the ball on every down.
But that would waste Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice.
All the passing records set by this year’s offense would be in jeopardy – even with a more prolific running game to complement it.
This year’s offensive line was voted the best in college football, but it would surpassed by a group consisting of tackles La’El Collins and Joe Barksdale, guards Ethan Pocic and Trai Turner and center Will Clapp.
Imagine Burrow with an even more dangerous running game, better pass protection and more pass-receiving options.
Could anyone stop it?
As good as Fournette and Guice are, they would have Devin White, Kevin Minter and Lamin Barrow pursuing them. Whenever those guys needed a break, Kendell Beckwith, Kwon Alexander and Kelvin Sheppard would be ready.
Speaking of depth, the offensive line would have to bang bodies at the outset with Michael Brockers, Sam Montgomery and Arden Key. Rashard Lawrence and Davon Godcahux would add to a fresh rotation. Barkevious Mingo would join Montgomery and Key as pass rushers on obvious passing downs.
Of course passing downs aren’t always obvious with Burrow at the controls. Any down and distance could be a passing down.
As good as Burrow’s protection would be, he’d still face pressure from time to time and his ability to spot the right matchup and deliver the ball in split-second fashion would be as crucial as ever.
While Eric Reid and Brandon Taylor would be key guys against the run, and Jamal Adams and Grant Delpit could play against the run or the pass, the real fun would be in the passing-game matchups.
Patrick Peterson, Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu, Donte Jackson, Greedy Jackson and Jalen Mills would take turns blanketing Burrow’s stable of receivers.
Burrow is smart, decisive and accurate, so his ball security is outstanding. But it’s still hard to imagine those DBs not being able to come up with at least 1 interception.
But every time the Tigers needed a touchdown to put a game away this season, Burrow has produced one – or more. Monday night, against the best defense in America, he threw 5 TD passes. He ran for another TD, accounting for all 6 of the Tigers’ TDs against Clemson.
Even against this all-decade defense, chances are he’d do it again.