College Football Mailbag: Kerry Miller Answers Your Questions on B/R App

Kerry Miller@@kerrancejamesCollege Basketball National AnalystOctober 24, 2019

LSU QB Joe Burrow
LSU QB Joe BurrowGerald Herbert/Associated Press

Where did Joe Burrow's success come from?

Where did Trevor Lawrence's success go?

What is the most chaotic possibility for the College Football Playoff?

We're glad you asked.

Earlier this week, the B/R mobile app asked you to submit your best college football questions for our experts to answer. If you missed that notification and want to have your question featured in a future mailbag, keep an eye out for that alert next week. (It will typically go out Tuesdays.)

The interaction doesn't stop there, though. Comment on this article in the app and tag me (@KerranceJames), and I'll do my best to respond to all of you. Most people in this sports writing business abide by a strict #NeverReadTheComments mantra, but I say bring 'em on. Let's have some fun.

Without further ado, let's get into a question that many have been wondering and that swaggpapi took the time to ask:

From B/R App
From B/R AppFrom B/R App

Everyone is acting like Joe Burrow came out of the middle of nowhere, but I tried to tell everyone after the Fiesta Bowl that he was a legitimate dark horse for this year's Heisman Trophy.

OK, even I didn't believe he would be this good, but there were plenty of signs that something special could be coming.

Remember, this is the same guy who twice dominated in Ohio State's spring games. Heck, his name was in the headline that we used for both the 2017 and 2018 recaps of said spring games. He simply had the misfortune of never having a legitimate chance of taking J.T. Barrett's job and then losing the spring battle to Dwayne Haskins once Barrett was gone.

Then he transferred to LSU after spring practices ended, meaning he had a shorter-than-usual window to familiarize himself with both a new playbook and a young receiving corps. Now, combine that timeline with the fact that six of his first nine games were against Alabama, Auburn and the secondaries that ranked first (Miami), seventh (Mississippi State), 12th (Georgia) and 13th (Florida) in passing yards allowed per game last year.

It's kind of a miracle he fared as OK as he did throughout that gauntlet.

Once the schedule relented and he had a better sense of what this offense was capable of doing, he finished strong and set the stage for this breakout campaign. After throwing for just six touchdowns in those first nine games, Burrow passed for 10 and rushed for three more in his final four performances. There's no question that gave him a lot of confidence heading into his first spring in the Bayou.

And the big thing that no one seems to talk abouteven though it is constantly mentioned in regard to Tua Tagovailoa's success at Alabamais the incredible group of receivers at Burrow's disposal.

Justin Jefferson should be one of the first 10 wide receivers selected in the 2020 NFL draft if he declares a year early. Terrace Marshall Jr. was a 5-star recruit in last year's class, and Ja'Marr Chase was a top-100 guy overall. Both have near-certain futures of catching passes on Sundays. And that trio has accounted for 24 of Burrow's 29 passing touchdowns.

It's a perfect storm that has produced one of the most prolific offenses in the nation. And given how effortlessly Burrow was able to fling the ball around against the defenses of Florida and Mississippi State, I see no reason to expect him to slow down anytime soon.

Next up, mauriceee is hanging on for dear life to a Pac-12 dream:

From B/R App
From B/R AppFrom B/R App

We've reached Destiny Season in college football, meaning that for the next few weeks, we'll be incessantly hearing about which teams control their own destiny. It is almost exclusively used in reference to the one-loss teams from the best conferences, so Auburn, Florida, Georgia and Wisconsin fit that description heading into Week 9.

But Oregon does not.

The Ducks lost the only game they have played against a currently ranked team (No. 9 Auburn) and the only remaining game of that ilk is the late November road matchup against Arizona State. Presumably, Oregon would face a quality Utah in the Pac-12 championship, but being 12-1 with wins over the Utes, Arizona State and Washington isn't that impressive.

In other words, the Ducks need to win out, and they need a significant amount of help.

Unless things go up in flames in the next six weeks, both the SEC and the Big Ten will produce at least one better resume than Oregon—and probably two. You also have both Clemson and Oklahoma more than a little likely to go undefeated. And let's not forget about the possibility of an 11-1 Notre Dame with arguably more quality wins and a more forgivable loss than Oregon.

It's plausible that Oregon could go 12-1 and only land at No. 8 in the final CFP rankings. So start pulling for more Illinois-over-Wisconsin types of upsets if you're hoping to see the Ducks in a national semifinal.

Then we have ionostargaryen wondering if a different conference could benefit from the Pac-12's shortcomings:

From B/R App
From B/R AppFrom B/R App

As with Oregon, yes, there's a chance, but it requires some bizarre stuff to happen. Stuff like Minnesota winning the Big Ten, Clemson losing to someone in the ACC, and Oklahoma ceasing to score at will against everyone.

As far as what the league can control, the clearest path to the national nightmare of three SEC teams in the playoff would be both the Georgia-Florida winner and the LSU-Alabama loser finishing at 11-1, the LSU-Alabama winner going 12-0 and then the one-loss SEC East champ knocking off the undefeated SEC West champ for the conference title.

If Alabama loses to LSU and then looks unstoppable the rest of the way with a fully healthy Tagovailoa, even better.

It would be hard to imagine a scenario in which any of those three teams fails to finish in the Top Six of the CFP rankings. They could even end up in the top three spots if Clemson, Oklahoma and Ohio State/Penn State all fall by the wayside.

But we were in a similar position last October and didn't even end up with two SEC teams, so don't feel like you need to start preparing for the end of the world just yet.

Drew_singer and lyleone asked about the two surprising undefeated teams:

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From B/R AppFrom B/R App

From B/R App
From B/R AppFrom B/R App

With both the Bears and Golden Gophers, I think we're all hunkered down in "let's wait and see what happens when the schedule stiffens up" mode. Neither team has yet faced an opponent that has been ranked in the AP Top 20 at any point this season, and both had more than their fair share of scares.

Baylor barely showed up against Rice and blew a 20-point lead at home against Iowa State before winning on a last-minute field goal. It needed double overtime to beat Texas Tech and had to overcome a 10-point second-half deficit against Oklahoma State.

Minnesota has a similar story. It opened the season with four consecutive one-score wins over South Dakota State, Fresno State, Georgia Southern and Purdue. The Gophers needed double overtime against FSU, needed a last-second touchdown against GSU and had to hang on for dear life to avoid a Boilermakers comeback.

They're probably just above-average teams who have benefited from a soft schedule, and it will likely catch up with them in a big way, with the likes of Penn State, Iowa, Wisconsin, Oklahoma and Texas left on the dockets. As such, it has been hard to talk about Baylor and Minnesota in the same breath as the other six undefeated Power Five teams.

But there is no question they both deserve more national attention for these 7-0 starts, as there's a decent chance we're going to see one or both of them playing for a conference championship.

Assuming Minnesota wins its home game against Maryland and then Wisconsin loses at Ohio State this week, the Golden Gophers are going to have a two-game lead in the Big Ten West, plus they get to host the Badgers for the head-to-head game at the end of the regular season. It's still not the most likely scenario, but Minnesota against Ohio State is a legitimate possibility for the Big Ten title.

And in the Big 12, Baylor hosts Oklahoma and Texas in back-to-back weeks in November and could win that matchup with the Longhorns. If that happens, the Bears would be headed for a rematch with the Sooners in the conference championship.

It's safe to say no one thought those were possible two months ago.

Next, chiefredbone23 is having doubts about Trevor Lawrence's future greatness:

From B/R App
From B/R AppFrom B/R App

It's kind of hilarious that Clemson is 22-0 with Trevor Lawrence on the roster, and yet we're constantly forced to wonder if he's overrated or if he's lost some luster from last year.

For the most part, Lawrence's numbers are surprisingly similar to what he did as a freshman. The per-game marks of two passing touchdowns and 219 yards are identical. The completion percentages and yards-per-attempt ratios are close enough that the differences are negligible.

The only significant change is the uptick in interceptions, and a lot of that has been a combination of luck and some of his mistakes while trying to evolve into a more mobile passer.

On one of the two picks against Louisville, wide receiver Tee Higgins collided with a Cardinals defensive back to set up an easy interception. On Lawrence's lone interception against Florida State, cornerback Hamsah Nasirildeen was standing out of bounds when the ball was thrown and somehow made an acrobatic play to reestablish position in bounds before making the catch. One of the picks against Georgia Tech was a Hail Mary at the end of the first half.

Silly stuff, really. Could happen to anyone.

Lawrence has also made some terrible reads while rolling out of the pocket and has tried to force things that weren't there on third-down plays, but both of those issues should improve with experience.

To help make up for those errors, at least he has became a better runner. Certainly, Lawrence will never be a Lamar Jackson-type of quarterback, but he has already rushed for more yards and touchdowns than he did last year and almost never takes sacks.

I still think, barring injury, Lawrence is a lock for the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL draft.

And, finally, Packersfan1337 wants to know what life might look like in the upside down:

From B/R App
From B/R AppFrom B/R App

There is so much time left for things to go sideways that I don't even know where to start with this.

I mean, let's just look at the SEC to demonstrate how ridiculous things could get.

Let's say Alabama loses to LSU with a banged-up Tagovailoa and loses the Iron Bowl at Auburn. LSU also loses to Auburn and lets one slip away against Texas A&M at the end of the regular season. (Maybe in seven overtimes again?) Despite beating LSU and Alabama, Auburn loses to Georgia in between, resulting in a three-way two-loss tie atop the SEC West.

Meanwhile, Georgia loses to Florida and beats Missouri, but the Gators lose at Mizzou, ensuring the SEC East champion also has multiple losses.

Play out something similar in the Big Ten and saddle both Clemson and Oklahoma with at least one loss, and, hey, maybe SMU gets a chance to play for a national championship.

It's unlikely to say the least, but you asked for chaos. Chaos would be Baylor, Missouri, Minnesota, Pittsburgh and Utah all finishing as 11-2 conference champions, while Notre Dame also drops out of the conversation with losses to Michigan and maybe Duke or Stanford. If that happens, the committee would need to consider a 13-0 SMU boasting one of the best offenses in the nation.

Remember, comment on the app and tag me (@KerranceJames), and we'll keep this Q&A going for a few days.

                                                                                             

Kerry Miller covers college football and men's college basketball for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter, @kerrancejames.

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