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Brandon Harris Sparks Offensive Balance vs. Florida, Propels LSU's Playoff Hopes

Barrett Sallee@BarrettSalleeSEC Football Lead WriterOctober 18, 2015

LSU QB Brandon Harris
LSU QB Brandon HarrisGerald Herbert/Associated Press

For the first five games of the season, LSU was incomplete.

Sure, running back Leonard Fournette had established himself as one of the game's brightest stars, and the new-look defense led by coordinator Kevin Steele didn't suffer much of a drop-off from the John Chavis days.

But the passing game was still a major question mark.

Brandon Harris entered action on Saturday with just 10 passes of 20 or more yards on the season—tied for the fewest among qualifying quarterbacks, according to CFBStats.com. He was averaging just 122 yards per game—which was last in the SEC among quarterbacks who have started every game this season.

LSU QB Brandon Harris
LSU QB Brandon HarrisChris Graythen/Getty Images

He's no longer a question mark.

The true sophomore provided the perfect complement to Fournette's accolades against the ultra-talented Gator secondary in Saturday's 35-28 win in Baton Rouge, completing 13 of his 19 passes for 202 yards, two touchdowns and zero picks. 

Clay Travis of FoxSports.com had high praise for the dual-threat signal-caller from Bossier City, Louisiana, during the game:

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Clay Travis @ClayTravis

Brandon Harris looks like Tom Brady tonight.

The Tigers had a huge performance. Fournette entered the game having accounted 45.4 percent of LSU's offense on the season according to Adam Rittenberg of ESPN.com. While that's great for Fournette and a testament to his ability as a workhorse running back, that's far too much of a burden for one player to carry.

LSU needed to keep Florida honest, and Harris did just that on Saturday when the Tigers needed it most.

As LSU's official Twitter page pointed out, the Tigers were incredibly balanced offensively against the talented Gator defense:

LSU Football @LSUfootball

A final look at LSU's 35-28 win over UF. @LouisianaTravel http://t.co/RSnptuQDpS

Head coach Les Miles knows just how important it was for his quarterback to step up against a defense that is as talented as any his Tigers will face this year, according to Marcus Rodrigue of the Advocate:

Marcus Rodrigue @RodrigueReport

Miles: "Brandon Harris is one of the key, fundamental guys to our success. If he continues, we'll be as good as we can be." #LSU

I wasn't a believer in LSU before.

I thought the quarterback issues that had plagued the program virtually every season since 2008 (aside from Zach Mettenberger's senior season in 2013) were alive and well in Baton Rouge, and Miles and offensive coordinator Cam Cameron were doing their best to mask them.

LSU was one-dimensional by necessity, not choice.

It turns out it was mostly by choice.

Fournette provided the staff a nice insurance policy during the early part of the season. 

It's no surprise that the super-sophomore has become a star, but by becoming the best player in the game and dominating games in the face of defenses that stack everybody in the box to stop him, Fournette allowed the staff to bring Harris along slowly, build his confidence and unleash him when it mattered most.

LSU QB Brandon Harris
LSU QB Brandon HarrisDerick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

It mattered on Saturday.

Harris proved that LSU is the SEC's most complete team and perhaps in all of college football. Even if he doesn't look like Tom Brady all the time, the threat of that is at least there. 

With Fournette in the backfield, a little threat goes a long way toward LSU earning a trip to the SEC Championship Game for the first time since 2011.

That might not be the end game for this team, though.

In a season full of flawed teams, all it takes is a minor tweak to transform a team from a contender to a favorite.

That's exactly what LSU is now, thanks to Harris.

Quotes were obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Recruiting information is courtesy of 247Sports. Statistics are courtesy of cfbstats.com

Barrett Sallee is the lead SEC college football writer and national college football video analyst for Bleacher Report as well as a host on Bleacher Report Radio on SiriusXM 83. Follow Barrett on Twitter @BarrettSallee.

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