ATLANTA (AP) — Joe Burrow finished off his likely Heisman Trophy coronation with another dazzling performance and No. 1 LSU locked up a spot in the College Football Playoff for the first time, dominating No. 4 Georgia 37-10 in the Southeastern Conference championship game Saturday.
The Tigers, going for their first national title since 2007 season, will either return to Atlanta or head west to suburban Phoenix for a semifinal game on Dec. 28. Their bowl site and opponent will be announced on Sunday, but they surely made a persuasive case to be the top overall seed in the four-team field.
Burrow was all over the stat sheet for LSU (13-0, No. 2 CFP). He threw for 349 yards and four touchdowns. He was the Tigers’ second-leading rusher with 41 yards on 11 carries, often leaving the Bulldogs grasping at air as he twirled this way and that. He even caught a pass on a ball that was batted down at the line and wound up his arms, taking off for a 16-yard gain.
The Heisman-worthy moment came late in the third quarter. With Georgia (11-2, No 4 CFP) bringing the heat, Burrow spun to his left to get away from lineman Travon Walker, whirled back to his right to send Walker sprawling to the turf, then delivered a pass on the run while sprinting toward the LSU sideline with another defender in hot pursuit.
Justin Jefferson hauled in the throw just beyond midfield and took off down to the Bulldogs 9 for a 71-yard play. Three plays later, Burrow delivered his third TD pass of the game, hooking up with Terrace Marshall Jr., on a 4-yard touchdown pass that essentially finished off the Bulldogs.
Burrow wasn’t done. Derek Stingley’s second pick of Jake Fromm turned the ball back over to the prolific LSU offense at the 13, and Burrow wasted no time finding Justin Jefferson for an 8-yard TD that sent many in the predominantly Georgia crowd heading for the exits at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
LSU left no doubt it is the king of the mighty SEC, completing its run through a gauntlet of the league’s top teams. The Tigers had already knocked off Alabama, Florida and Auburn. Now, they can add the Bulldogs to the list, ensuring the SEC will only get one team in the national playoff.
LSU came into the game as the second-highest scoring team in the country behind Ohio State. They figured to have a tougher time against Georgia’s stellar defense, ranked No. 2 in points allowed. but Burrow kept the Bulldogs on their heels the entire game.
It was by far the most points Georgia has given up their season. Until Saturday, they held every opponent under 20 except South Carolina, which stunned the Bulldogs in double overtime nearly two months ago.
There was no such drama in this one.
Just total domination by the Tigers.
Marshall hauled in a pair of touchdown passes, also gathering a 7-yard scoring play that propelled LSU to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter. Ja’Marr Chase capped a 75-yard drive on the Tigers’ opening possession with a 23-yard touchdown catch.
It was a painful loss — literally — for the Bulldogs, who were making their third straight appearance in the SEC title game. Two players were carted off the field with apparently major injuries. Another player wobbled off with a concussion after being leveled on a kickoff that was penalized for targeting. Fromm twisted an ankle and had to go to the medical tent to get taped up, though he was able to finish the game.
Not that it mattered.
Fromm , who guided Georgia to the cusp of the national title two years ago as a freshman, had a forgettable performance in what has been the worst season of his college career.
He was 20 of 42 for 225 yards, including a pair of interceptions, and didn’t get much help from his teammates. Tyler Simmons dropped a deep ball on the very first possession, and Matt Landers couldn’t hang on to a throw in the end zone when Georgia still had a glimmer of hope.
Further compounding Georgia’s miserable showing: Star kicker Rodrigo Blankenship, the leading scorer in school history, missed a pair of field goal attempts .
Georgia finally reached the end zone with just under 12 minutes remaining on Fromm’s 2-yard TD pass to George Pickens.
LSU: The Tigers could certainly take pride in putting up 481 yards on a defense of Georgia’s caliber, but the most encouraging aspect of this game was another strong performance from LSU’s defense. Maligned much of the season, they followed up a 50-7 rout of Texas A&M in the regular-season finale with another championship-worthy showing against the Bulldogs, who were held to 286 yards.
Georgia: Jake Fromm came into the season projected as a high NFL draft pick who would likely go pro after his junior season. Now, it’s not a reach to say he might be better off returning for his senior season to try to boost his stock. He has now failed to complete even half his passes in five straight games.
LSU: Makes its first appearance in the College Football Playoff, which began in 2014. The Tigers last played for a national title during the 2011 season, when they went 12-0 in the regular season, captured the SEC title with a blowout of Georgia, but were blanked 21-0 by Alabama in the BCS championship game.
Georgia: Appears likely to make its second straight appearance in the Sugar Bowl against Baylor, loser of the Big 12 championship game.