NEW ORLEANS – Don’t let the easy-going smile fool you.
LSU Heisman Trophy winning quarterback has his game-face on for Monday’s College Football Playoff national championship game against Clemson.
Exhibit 1, according to LSU coach Ed Orgeron:
“We have a tradition here at LSU that we carry the seniors off the field for the last practice,” Orgeron said at Saturday’s CFP media day. “Joe Burrow told the quarterbacks, `If any of you try to carry me off the field, I’m going to whip your ass’, and he walked off the field. So that’s Joe Burrow for you.”
Said Burrow, “I felt weird doing it, didn’t really want anybody touching me like that, I guess.”
Exhibit 2, also from Orgeron:
“We sang (Strength) Coach (Tommy) Moffitt happy birthday last night,” Orgeron said. “Joe wasn’t big on singing happy birthday. He wanted to go watch film. Joe is very driven.”
Burrow said he started watching Clemson game film shortly after he accounted for seven TD passes and a TD run in No. 1 LSU’s 63-28 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl CFP semifinal win over No. 4 Oklahoma two weeks ago.
“I treated the first week (after the Oklahoma win) like a game week,” Burrow said. “This week was kind of like icing on the cake. Towards the end of this week I got a little tired watching film. I watched it all. You can only watch so much before you’re just ready to play the game. So, it did help.
“You got to be careful overloading information, too, in these two weeks. I’m a super focused guy that likes to look at every single look. I try to go into the game understanding the things they like to do most and just buzz the things that they’ve done one or two or three times throughout the year.
“I’ve had to kind of stop myself sometimes and not watch everything the same amount that I do, the stuff they do the most. It’s going to help us, for sure. But they’re going to have something new for us. We’re going to understand that.”
Clemson’s defense, coached by veteran coordinator Brent Venables, is ranked first in the nation in total defense (264.1 yards per game) and first in scoring defense (11.5 points allowed per game).
Venables’ level of respect for Burrow and LSU’s offense that leads the nation in scoring (48.9 ppg) and total yards per game (564.2) is off the charts.
“I don’t know if we faced a quarterback completing 80 percent of his passes, 55 touchdowns, over 5,000 yards,” Venables said. “Again, the depth of the playmakers is what makes them unique, as well. The running back (Clyde Edwards-Helaire) is not just a running back, he’s really a bonafide receiver, as well.
“Again, the system is a little bit different than many of the others, a true spread offense.”
Burrow said going against Venables and his unit full of elite athletes is “going to be a fun chess match for me.”
“I know they’re going to have something different, some looks that I haven’t seen before,” Burrow said. “It’s why they’re the No. 1 defense in the country.
“My preparation is knowing what they like to do behind certain blitzes. Every defensive coordinator has different tendencies on different down and distances.
“You got to understand what they’re going to do on those situations. If you go into the game preparing like that, you can narrow down all these different things that they do to one, two or three things. You can get your eyes on those keys to understand what they’re doing.”
Venables said LSU’s line of scrimmage adjustments are second-to-none.
“There’s a lot of checking at the sideline,” Venables said. “There’s a lot of things that are going on on the field pre-snap. They’re trying to get in the best looks on offense, trying to prevent negative plays. We’re trying to not make it easy on the opponents by opening up our playbook for them.
“Most of the times the defensive coordinator has to signal in first, then the offense gets to choose when they’re going to snap the ball. Defensively, you’re at their will.”