Joe Burrow won't repeat Jason White's performance in LSU-Oklahoma game
He came out of nowhere to become the most productive quarterback in college football.
He won the Heisman Trophy.
He led his top-ranked team into the postseason with a national championship clearly in its sight.
Yeah, all of that applies to LSU’s Joe Burrow as he prepares to lead the No. 1 Tigers against No. 4 Oklahoma in the Peach Bowl on Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
But all of that also applied to one of the quarterbacks in the last LSU-Oklahoma game.
It was 16 years ago.
The Sooners’ Jason White had played very little in 3 seasons – partly due to injuries – before what was supposed to be his senior season in 2003. He opened eyes all over the country by passing for more than 3,800 yards with 40 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
He later was granted a 6th season of eligibility in the wake of time missed due to multiple injuries, but in 2003 he was a consensus All-American as he led OU to an undefeated regular season.
Unlike White, Burrow had a full season as a starter at LSU last season, but he still wasn’t on anyone’s Heisman radar before the season – and the Tigers weren’t considered the strongest of CFP contenders.
But Burrow has been even more productive this season than White was in 2003. The former Ohio State quarterback has thrown for more than 4,700 yards and has 48 touchdown passes and just 6 interceptions.
Burrow won the Heisman by a record margin and he and the offense represent the biggest challenge to the other Playoff participants, similar to the challenge that White and the Sooners’ offense presented to the 2003 Tigers.
White and OU were favored to beat LSU in the BCS Championship in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, but White couldn’t add a team trophy to his individual trophy as the Tigers prevailed 21-14.
Could a similar outcome be awaiting the climax to Burrow’s Heisman season – a disappointing team short-fall after the Heisman triumph?
Sure, the Sooners could beat the Tigers and Burrow could fall short of the near-perfection that he has demonstrated all season long.
But if Burrow and LSU do come up short, it won’t look anything like the last OU-LSU game with national-championship implications.
In that game in the Superdome, Nick Saban’s defense harassed White throughout the night.
White operated almost exclusively out of the shotgun because of limited mobility due to major knee surgery. LSU sacked him 5 times for 46 yards in losses. He completed 13-of-37 passes for a mere 102 yards. He didn’t throw a touchdown pass. He threw 2 interceptions.
One of the interceptions was returned 20 yards by Marcus Spears for a touchdown just seconds into the 3rd quarter.
That gave the Tigers a 21-7 lead. The Sooners got a 4th-quarter touchdown to make it a 1-score game, but they couldn’t catch up as White’s last 8 passes were incomplete.
This year’s Oklahoma defense is inconsistent. It’s not going to slow down Burrow the way LSU slowed down White. It won’t even come close.
For one thing, Burrow is far more mobile than White was. Burrow gets rid of the ball too quickly.
Burrow is completing nearly 80 percent of his passes. Anything approaching White’s 35 percent completion rate against LSU is unimaginable for Burrow.
The final score in this game isn’t going to be anything like 21-14. Both those teams had better defenses than these teams have. Both these teams have better offenses than those teams had – even with White’s remarkable regular season.
Jason White had an outstanding season in 2003. Joe Burrow has had an even more outstanding season in 2019.
LSU won that national championship primarily because of the way it shut down White and the OU offense.
If OU wins this semifinal game and moves on to the title game back in the Superdome, it will be because it overcomes an inability to shut down Burrow and the LSU offense.