LSU's Brandon Harris is top-graded QB in SEC
The best player on the LSU Tigers is Leonard Fournette, and their star running back proved that once again on Saturday against the Florida Gators, keeping the offense churning and moving forward with every powerful carry into the teeth of another SEC defense.
Much as Fournette is rightly getting the headlines and the Heisman hype, he is not the only Tiger playing well in the LSU backfield. In fact, a significant part of LSU’s success this season has been due to the strong play of quarterback Brandon Harris, who earned his third positive grade in the last four games against Florida with his best game grade of the season so far.
The offense is not engineered for Harris to run the show — why would it be when you have Fournette to hand the ball to 20-plus times per game? However, Harris stands as our only positively graded passer in the SEC after Week 7, managing the passing game well and exploiting the space in the running game that is left as defenses adjust to Fournette’s presence. He currently ranks in the top 20 of our QB grades.
Harris has yet to turn throw an interception this season, and has not been relying on luck, either; he has produced just three turnover-worthy plays this season, compared to nine big-time throws. Translation: The LSU signal-caller is limiting mistakes and hitting on throws down the field. That’s exactly the kind of performance you want to pair with a dominant ground game.
The strength of Harris’ passing this season has been working the middle of the field between the numbers on passes of 10 or more yards, working in behind the safeties and linebackers who have moved up in the box to defend Fournette’s runs. Harris has completed 13 of 26 passes in this range for 395 yards, earning a +5.5 PFF passing grade on these throws. Compare that to SEC West rival Jake Coker (who gets to work off of star Alabama RB Derrick Henry’s ground attack), who has gone 13-of-34 for 318 yards on those throws, but has tossed five interceptions as well, earning a -1.2 grade (although Coker has been even worse on throws closer to the line of scrimmage).
On Nov. 7 we will get to see LSU and Alabama go head to head in what could well prove to be the decisive game in the SEC West, potentially paving the way for a playoff bid for the victor. Both teams boast a lead running back who brings the power to drive the running game and a defense to match any offense physically, but right now the edge in this matchup goes to LSU thanks to the extra dimension that Harris brings to the offense. The risk-free play of Harris that doesn’t come at the expense of a lack of big plays in the passing game makes LSU the most well-rounded team in the SEC right now, in a few weeks we’ll see if he can maintain that and deliver when it counts to set LSU on a path for the Georgia Dome and beyond.