Before the first week of the 2019 college football season, Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa were the early favorites to win the most prestigious award in college football: the Heisman Trophy. It’s no coincidence that these two quarterbacks faced off in the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship. Clemson and Alabama traded national championships from the 2015 season through the 2018 season. It was a safe bet for one of their quarterbacks, arguably the two best college quarterbacks in the country, to win the award for the most outstanding player in the NCAA.
As we all know, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow eventually won the 2019 Heisman Trophy via the most lopsided vote in the long history of the award.
During the course of this legendary season, Burrow has completed 77.6% of his passes for 5208 passing yards, 55 passing touchdowns, and just six interceptions. He even ran for an additional 311 yards and four touchdowns.
Burrow’s passing efficiency rating of 204.6 is the highest in a single-season in college football history, far higher than Tua Tagovailoa’s record-setting mark of 199.4 last season. Of course, this stat on its own does not mean much because league-wide PER has obviously increased dramatically over time:
So, I used Pro Football Reference’s methodology of creating era-adjusted passing metrics in order to see how Burrow’s 2019 PER stacks up once you adjust for the inflation of the passing game. Turns out he has the highest single-season passer efficiency rating since 1980 with or without an adjustment for era.
Don’t forget that LSU’s schedule has been far from a cakewalk. It’s been a gauntlet for the undefeated Fighting Tigers. They beat #2 Alabama, #7 Florida, #9 Auburn, and #9 Texas in the regular season. That’s four teams ranked in the top-ten in the country at the time of their game against LSU. They went on to rout #4 Georgia by 27 points in the SEC Championship Game before advancing to the College Football Playoff for the first time in school history. They stomped #4 Oklahoma in the semifinal by a whopping 35 points and will now face off against #3 Clemson (who beat #2 Ohio State) in the national championship. The same Clemson Tigers that have won 29 straight games. The fact that Burrow is putting up these stats against this schedule is simply incredible.
If they finish the job against Clemson tomorrow, the team will go down as one of the greatest of the modern era. Furthermore, Burrow’s season will have an even stronger argument for the greatest single-season performance in college football history.