Sam Hanna Jr.

We’ve all read the same statistics, and we’re all well aware that Louisiana more often than not ranks dead last in just about every ranking that purports to grade states on economic activity and quality of life.

Well, Louisiana isn’t dead last for the time being thanks to the Louisiana State University football team and its soon-to-be Heisman winning quarterback, Joe Burrow. Or is it Burreaux?

Burrow can spell his last name however he would like in light of that young man’s performance in leading the LSU Tigers to their first undefeated regular season since 2011. At 12-0 including a convincing win over archrival Alabama last month, LSU is headed to the Southeastern Conference championship in Atlanta where the West Division champion Tigers will face an 11-1 Georgia Bulldog squad, champions from the East.

Just a year ago LSU was coming off a heart-breaking 74-72 loss to Texas A&M in College Station. It was a seven overtime affair, but as disheartening as it was the LSU Nation got a glimpse of what Burrow was capable of doing when Coach Ed Orgeron gave him the green light to run and throw as if tomorrow didn’t matter.

You just knew — or at least suspected — that something special might be in the works in 2019.

No one can say with a straight face that they expected Burrow and the Bayou Bengals to average more than 48 points a game this season. That’s exactly what the Tigers accomplished behind Burrow completing 314 of 401 passes for a whopping 4,366 yards and 44 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Not only did Burrow become the first 4,000-yard-passer in SEC history, he tied the SEC record for most touchdown passes while blowing away the LSU record for most TD passes in a single season.

Yet, the record keeping doesn’t stop with the regular season behind us, according to the NCAA. That means Burrow has at least two more games — SEC championship and at least one playoff contest — to capture the record for most touchdown passes as well as the record for the best completion percentage in a single season. Even if LSU should fail to beat Georgia in the SEC championship, the Tigers are headed to the College Football Playoffs on Dec. 28.

Of course, Burrow wasn’t the only LSU Tiger to post eye-popping statistics this year. Receivers Jamarr Chase and Justin Jefferson each racked up more than 1,000 yards receiving and under-appreciated running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire rushed for more than 1,200 yards and 16 touchdowns. Edwards-Helaire also caught 43 passes for 338 yards and a touchdown. An impressive body of work for a 5’8”, 210 lb. back who was told he was too small to succeed in the SEC when he signed with LSU out of Catholic High in Baton Rouge.

Throughout the season the LSU defense didn’t play up to LSU standards. At least that’s what the talking heads on television said, and to some degree, they were right. The LSU defense did give up a lot of points on the year, but in last weekend’s whitewashing of Texas A&M in Death Valley, the D only gave up 169 yards and seven points. It was a dominating performance by a defense that’s been riddled with injuries all season long.

Perhaps the defense’s performance against the Aggies was a sign of what’s to come, or perhaps the defense simply grew tired of hearing it wasn’t up to snuff.

Call me old fashioned but I still subscribe to the notion that football games are won in the trenches, and without a doubt, LSU’s offensive linemen are the unsung heroes of the 2019 Tigers. A year ago, you would have been hard-pressed to identify anyone who had anything nice to say about the O line. That wasn’t the case this year. Burrow’s gaudy stats are proof positive that LSU’s offensive line did its job and more.

Yep, this LSU football team is special, and they’ve been fun to watch. Almost as much fun to watch as Coach O basking in the glory of leading LSU to an undefeated season, just three years after his hiring as LSU’s head football coach was widely criticized by fans and the press alike.

Orgeron promised he would lead LSU to the SEC championship and compete for a national title in short order.

I would say he’s a man of his word.

Sam Hanna Jr. can be reached by phone at 318-805-8158 or e-mail at samhannajr@samhannajr.com.

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