Can LSU’s Joe Burrow become most accurate QB ever? Colt McCoy: ‘I wouldn’t be surprised’

6 days ago The Advocate 0

When Joe Burrow completed the third-and-17 touchdown pass that secured a top-10 win over Texas in September, college football’s most accurate quarterback in history was watching.

And as the weeks and LSU wins went by, it became more and more clear to Colt McCoy that this LSU quarterback had a good shot at taking down a record that has stood for just over 10 years.

“I thought he played awesome,” said McCoy, now a quarterback with the Washington Redskins. “After they beat Texas, I started trying to catch his games when I could.”

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McCoy set the NCAA record for highest completion percentage (minimum 150 attempts) for the Longhorns in 2008, when his 76.7% completion rate made him the first quarterback to complete more than three-fourths of his passes.

Burrow is on his way to being the second, and after No. 2 LSU (12-0, 8-0 Southeastern Conference) beat Texas A&M 50-7 on Saturday, the 6-foot-4, 216-pound senior finished the regular season having completed 78.3% of his passes.

If it were 20 years ago, Burrow would already own the record. But in 2002, the NCAA began counting postseason games toward official single-season records, which means Burrow will have to keep up the rate in the SEC Championship Game against No. 4 Georgia and any postseason games that would follow.

The LSU quarterback has yet to complete fewer than 71% of his passes in any game this season, and Burrow would have to throw nine straight incompletions to start the game against Georgia to dip below McCoy’s record.

McCoy isn’t holding his breath.

“I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he breaks that record, and if he does, good for him,” McCoy said in an email. “After they beat Texas, I hope they go all the way.”

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In order to understand how unique it is for a quarterback to nearly reach the 80% mark, it’s easier to subtract 10% and start from there.

Breaking 70% used to be a threshold reserved for the elite. Only six quarterbacks completed more than 70% of their passes before the year 2000.

Tim Couch, who owned the single-season SEC passing yards record before Burrow surpassed him against Texas A&M, completed 72.3% of his passes for Kentucky in 1998. Considering Couch was that accurate in head coach Hal Mumme’s Air Raid offense was impressive, and it was one of the reasons Couch finished fourth in the Heisman voting that season.

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When McCoy set the record 10 years later, he finished second in the Heisman voting. Spread offenses had become more widespread in college football by 2008, particularly in the Big 12 Conference, and the results showed: McCoy, Missouri’s Chase Daniel (72.9%) and Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell (70.6%) were the only quarterbacks to break the 70% threshold that season.

The number of extremely accurate quarterbacks continued to swell.

Five quarterbacks broke 70% in 2010, and eight more completed at such a rate in 2011.

What was going on?

“I think because of the short passes, the short passing games,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “People are in the spread. They’re in the shotgun. There’s a lot of quick throws. There’s a lot of good reads you get in empty (formations). (Defenses) got to tell you what they’re in, man or zone. You can figure it out real quick.”

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Burrow’s had his fair share of quick throws. It’s part of the philosophy within LSU’s revamped spread offense: block with five offensive linemen, send the rest out in routes, and Burrow will have more options to throw before defensive pressure arrives.

That’s partly why LSU’s Clyde Edwards-Helaire has 43 catches for 338 yards and a touchdown — statistics that would have made a running back (yes, an LSU running back) the team’s second-leading receiver in 2018, when the Tigers were still more committed to the run game.

But Burrow’s passes aren’t all just checkdowns and quick passes to the flats. He’s been substantially accurate on his deep passes, completing 69.35% of his passes of over 10 yards, according to SECStatCat.com

“He’s putting the ball on the money every time,” LSU defensive end Breiden Fehoko said. “And regardless if it’s a short five-and-in, or if it’s a nine-(yard) route, it’s on the money. He hit Ja’Marr Chase for a 78-yard touchdown pass this past weekend, and the ball was on the money.”

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Burrow ranks second nationally with 63 passes of 20 or more yards, and 20 of his 44 touchdown passes this season have gone for 20 or more yards.

Fehoko, a Texas Tech transfer, has played with some top talent. Early in his time at Lubbock, he played with future NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes. Fehoko played with Baker Mayfield, before the future NFL No. 1 overall draft pick transferred to Oklahoma.

Fehoko said LSU teammates have been asking him to compare Burrow’s performance to those greats.

Is Burrow better? Is he on the way to winning the Heisman? A No. 1 overall pick?

“The best of the best is derived by what the résumé speaks, and I think Joe’s résumé speaks for itself,” Fehoko said. “Not gonna jump to any conclusions, but I think we know the path he’s headed right now.”

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