LSU No. 2 in country

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When you think of LSU, high-powered offense usually isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. 

But this season is different in Baton Rouge, and senior quarterback Joe Burrow is perhaps the biggest reason why. 

The former transfer from Ohio State is leading the nation in passing efficiency for the Tigers, who are No. 2 in both passing offense and total offense. 

Usually LSU is run-first and stout defensively, which was a concern for Burrow and his family when the quarterback decided to transfer after the 2017 season. Joe’s father, Jimmy Burrow, who was offensive coordinator at Ohio University before retiring last season, wanted to be sure LSU coach Ed Orgeron wasn’t going to roll out another grind-it-out-on-the-ground offense. 

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“They convinced us that it was going to be different and it wasn’t just going to be overnight,” the elder Burrow told The New York Times. “We asked some pretty pointed questions to make sure this was the direction they were going. You just had to trust them.” 

And the offensive transformation hasn’t been overnight. 

For last season’s 10-3 team, Burrow completed 57.8 percent of his throws with a respectable 16-5 touchdowns to interceptions ratio. 

But in 2019, he and the Tigers offense have taken their games to another level. 

Burrow’s 2,157 yards in unbeaten LSU’s six wins are just 737 shy of his 2018 13-game total. He has thrown 25 touchdowns to just three interceptions, and his yards per attempt has made giant leap from 7.6 to 11.6. 

Behind Burrows, the Tigers are lighting up the scoreboard like it’s a video game. 

In Saturday’s 42-28 win over previously unbeaten Florida, LSU piled up more than 500 yards of offense against what was one of the country’s best defenses. 

The win over the Gators arguably gives the Tigers the two most significant victories by any Top 25 team. LSU beat Texas last month when the Longhorns were ranked in the top 10. 

The Tigers leap-frogged both Clemson and Ohio State to No. 2, behind Alabama, in this week’s AP poll. Both ESPN and CBS Sports had them atop their power rankings. 

But the win over Texas, 45-38 in Austin, brings up some questions on the defensive side of the ball. 

While the Tigers are 25th in the country in total defense, that’s a bit deceiving. 

They burnished their numbers against overmatched opponents — Georgia Southern, Northwestern State, Utah State — and have been suspect against Power 5 opponents, giving up more than 34 points per game.  

LSU’s beat Vanderbilt 66-38 on Sept. 21. On Saturday, the Commodores could manage only 10 points in a loss to UNLV. 

LSU plays at Mississippi State, hosts No. 11 Auburn and has a bye week before a potential 1-vs.-2 showdown with Alabama in Tuscaloosa. 

The last time the two met as No. 1 and No. 2, in 2011 (a game that has its own Wikipedia page), the Tigers needed overtime to beat the Crimson Tide in a touchdown-free 9-6 slog. 

With the nation’s top two quarterbacks — Burrow and Alabama’s Tua Taigovailoa — directing its first-and second-ranked scoring offenses, points should not be hard to come by. 

Friday

Ohio State -28.5 at Northwestern, Total 49: Since a lackluster second half of their 45-21 win over Florida Atlantic, the Buckeyes have been nearly flawless. 

In the five games since the Owls scored three touchdowns after halftime in the season opener, Ohio State has averaged 50 points per game while giving up a total of 32. 

Quarterback Justin Fields, a five-star recruit who transferred from Georgia during the offseason, has accounted for 26 touchdowns with only one interception. 

But the Buckeyes’ trip to the greater Chicago area could be a tricky one. 

The Wildcats counter with their own five-star transfer at quarterback, Hunter Johnson, who began his college career at Clemson. But while Johnson has struggled, the Wildcats’ defense has been solid. It held Wisconsin to a season low in yardage in a 24-15 loss. 

And a showdown with the No. 6 Badgers looms for Ohio State eight days later. 

Looking ahead? NORTHWESTERN and UNDER 

Saturday

Arizona State +14 at Utah: The Sun Devils and Utes are part of a four-way logjam at the top of the Pac-12’s South Division and both are 5-1 overall. 

Utah’s loss at USC three weeks ago looks now like it was a wake-up call. The Utes have put together their most complete efforts of the season in blowouts of Washington State and Oregon State the past two weeks. 

But Arizona State has been solid in head coach Herm Edwards’ second season. The Sun Devils’ lone defeat came in a back-and-forth affair with Colorado, and Edwards’ offense has been trending up the past three weeks. ARIZONA STATE 

Central Michigan at Bowling Green +12: Through the first five weeks of the season, the Falcons seemed to be making a claim for worst team in the FBS. But then on Saturday they shut down MAC-leading Toledo 20-7. 

Bowling Green quarterback Grant Loy, who took over for starter Darius Wade in a loss to Notre Dame, had a breakout game against the Rockets, rushing for 137 yards and a touchdown. 

Now, Loy and the Falcons are getting almost two touchdowns at home against a Chippewas team that is 0-3 on the road this year. BOWLING GREEN 

Last week: 2-1-1

Season: 10-14-1

About the Author

Ched Whitney

Ched Whitney has been a journalist in Las Vegas since 1994. He worked for the Las Vegas Review-Journal for 18 years, where he was the paper’s art director for 12. Since becoming a freelancer in 2012, his work has appeared at ESPN.com, AOL, The Seattle Times and UNLV Magazine, among others. ​

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