"Anybody, Anywhere" | SEC Champion Tigers Stake Claim for No. 1
ATLANTA — On Saturday, it was in Atlanta, for the SEC Championship.
A month ago, it was in Tuscaloosa, for a season-defining SEC West win.
In three weeks, when the College Football Playoffs start, it could be in Phoenix or Atlanta.
Doesn’t matter where. Doesn’t matter who.
Ask any Tiger, and listen closely through the celebratory music in the locker room and the impromptu dancing that accommodates it, and you’ll hear loud and clear.
They think they’re the best team in the country.
And after Saturday, a nation might just agree.
LSU’s 37-10 demolition of No. 4 Georgia in the SEC title game was their fifth top five win of the season – three of which came away from home. That collection includes wins over teams currently ranked No. 4, No. 9, No. 11, and No. 12 in the CFP rankings.
It’s a hell of a resume for, in Ed Orgeron‘s words, “a darn good football team.”
“We don’t know,” Orgeron said. “I told the team it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter where they rank us or where they tell us to go. We’ve got to win the next game, and that’s all that matters.”
Of the first 13 wins they’ve tallied this year, Saturday’s was as impressive a performance in all aspects.
Offensively, Heisman runaway Joe Burrow – who has a chance to win the award by the widest margin in the history of the voting – did what he’s done all year, completing 28-of-38 passes for 349 yards and four scores, adding another 41 yards rushing to his tally.
He also offered yet another Heisman moment, a third quarter highlight for the ages. On the first play of LSU’s second drive of the half, Burrow evaded two Bulldog pass rushers, rolled right, and fired a strike to Justin Jefferson for a 71-yard again. As jaws across the world dropped, Heisman voters – their selections are due Monday – surely picked theirs up then dropped their votes in the mail.
“It was all improvised,” Burrow said “Justin ran a six-yard hitch route and saw me scrambling and took off deep. We got a great feel for each other. I knew exactly where he was going to be when I got out of there.”
It was an unpredictable play with a totally predictable conclusion. It ended the game and the Heisman voting, all in one fell swoop – even though it was already clear where both results were going.
“In my opinion, he’s the best player in the country,” said Orgeron. “In my opinion, he should win it. In my opinion, he’s going to win it. The best thing about Joe is he’s a team player. All he wants to do is win this game. Individual awards are not high on his list. That’s what makes him such a great team player.”
Burrow wasn’t the only offensive star. Terrace Marshall (five catches, 89 yards, two touchdowns) and Jefferson (7 catches, 115 yards, 1 touchdown) had monster games receiving, and Clyde Edwards-Helaire matched the LSU single-season record for receptions by a running back, going to 50 on the season with seven catches for 61 yards and another 57 yards on the ground.
But the defense was not to be outdone. Freshman Derek Stingley picked off two Georgia passes, Patrick Queen, K’Lavon Chaisson, Grant Delpit, and Rashard Lawrence all registered sacks, and the Tigers held Georgia to 286 yards and one late garbage time touchdown.
“We just accepted the challenge,” said JaCoby Stevens, who tallied a team-high 7 tackles. “There’s a lot of people who told us we weren’t good. We accepted the challenge, and since that, we’ve dominated.”
The result: not only a comprehensive win to clinch the program’s first SEC title since 2011, but a definitive statement to the College Football Playoff committee, which will decide seeding tomorrow for the four playoff teams.
LSU entered the game second behind Ohio State, but they left it looking second to none.
“We’ve been the number one team all year, in my opinion,” said Stevens. “The great players we have, the great coaches we have, the support staff, there’s no doubt in my mind that we’re the number one team in the nation.”
“If you look at the last couple of games, the numbers don’t lie,” added Lawrence. “There’s a lot of good teams out there, and they’re going the four best teams in there. But for us, it don’t matter where we go. We’re just going to enjoy it and get ready for whoever we play.”
What does the Heisman lock think? The best player in America thinks he plays on the best team in America.
He’d rather show you than tell you about it, though.
“Look, we’ll play anybody anywhere,” Burrow said. “You can take us to Canada, and we’ll play on a gravel lot. It doesn’t matter where or who we play.”