College football quarterback film study: Joe Burrow, Trevor Lawrence in a league of their own

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 07: Joe Burrow #9 of the LSU Tigers throws a pass in the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs during the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GEORGIA - DECEMBER 07: Joe Burrow #9 of the LSU Tigers throws a pass in the first half against the Georgia Bulldogs during the SEC Championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on December 07, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images) /

Breaking down the top college football quarterbacks from championship weekend, including Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, LSU’s Joe Burrow and more.

It’s been a terrific season of college football as we’ve been tracking the progress of the nation’s top quarterbacks since Week 1. The championship weekend marks the end of our weekly updates, but there was a lot to breakdown as most of our regular features were playing in career-defining moments. This was the opportunity for some to change narratives, and others to reinforce them.

We saw Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence and LSU’s Joe Burrow separate from the pack as the best two passers in the country after dominating for much, if not all, of the season. Meanwhile, Oregon’s Justin Herbert and Georgia’s Jake Fromm somewhat struggled in their own isolated play, then dealt with some tough drops that made things worse. Ohio State’s Justin Fields split those two categories, with uneven play splattered with enough impactful moments to spur wins.

For the last time until the end-of-season retrospective after the National Championship Game has been played, let’s break down the top quarterbacks from this week.

Trevor Lawrence, Clemson

There were multiple points in the first half as Clemson was thrashing Virginia where I simply felt bad for the Cavaliers. There’s nothing they could do against the Tigers’ immense offensive talent. Much of this is directly linked to how well Lawrence played.

Lawrence was dazzling on the championship stage, missing just five of his 21 attempts beyond the line of scrimmage. This was likely his best overall performance of the year in terms of dominating on all levels of the field. It’s a shame we couldn’t see more situational football from him, as Virginia couldn’t force a third down, but his play under pressure and within the pocket was brilliant.

It was a game that should remind everyone why he’s the best overall talent in college football. He’s doing this at 19 years old, as opposed to Burrow being 23 already. Though Ohio State will certainly pressure him and provide tighter passing windows than what he’s seen this year, it’s not like he was only throwing to wide-open targets against Virginia.

The Buckeyes are the only team in the country equipped to slow this Clemson offense. We’re in for a real treat as the two most talented programs in the country face off later this month.

Joe Burrow, LSU

All of the praise for Lawrence doesn’t take anything away from Burrow’s own efforts against Georgia. I wanted to see how he handled a fast and long defense like the Bulldogs, and he passed with flying colors. Only twice did it seem like he underestimated their ability to close on the ball, but he still avoided a turnover-worthy throw as the competition ramped up.

As importantly, the downfield throwing continued to shine. He lost two deep touchdowns to contested but catchable drops. Some of his best throws were dropped, but he shined again as a quick-hitting passer with precision and poise as well. He obliterated Georgia under pressure, throwing a catchable ball on eight of 12 attempts and two touchdowns.

His consistency in the red zone, against pressure and on conversion downs is nothing short of fantastic. He’s easily earned the Heisman Trophy this year and is a complete aberration in the history of college football with his ascent. He has few flaws in his game and defenses often lack the time to expose them before he can get rid of the ball.

I wish we could’ve seen Burrow play against Ohio State and Clemson since Oklahoma won’t offer much of a test. But the senior has been nearly perfect for an entire season to this point.

Justin Herbert, Oregon

All-in-all, this was a disappointing performance for Herbert despite his team’s blowout win against Utah. Herbert suffered three drops and had two excellent throws that project well to the next level, but the overall performance again screams qualified game manager more than special talent. It’s impossible to watch Lawrence and Burrow, then Herbert, and come away with the opinion that he’s anywhere near them.

Two of his accurate deep throws were either schemed or via a blown coverage, including his deep touchdown to Juwan Johnson. The other was a risky jump ball that luckily worked out, but was at best a 50-50 decision. He missed all three deep passes to the left by quite a bit.

His one-of-four and dropped interception in the red zone piles onto poorer situational play on conversion downs. As much of a difference as his running can do and strong-arm shows on short throws, Herbert will require mechanical tweaks at the top of his drops. And he doesn’t seem to be naturally accurate nor instinctive, which tends to cause these costly misses.

He’s a good prospect who is lacking in areas that cause concern. This isn’t too dissimilar to prospects like Ryan Tannehill and Drew Lock, for example. He’ll need a good surrounding cast, coaching and to make some small improvements in order to be an average or better starter.

That’s a first-round value for most teams.

Jake Fromm, Georgia

The shakiest performance of the week was easily Fromm’s. Given a green light to throw early for once as the Bulldogs likely knew they needed to score with Burrow, Fromm delivered a terrific deep pass that was dropped, then struggled to find impact plays the rest of the game. He missed two of his first three deep passes and never proved to be a reliable big-play threat.

Fair or not, that’s what he needed to be this game and this season for Georgia to win on the grandest stage. And that’ll continue into the NFL. His arm strength was an issue on his short interception, and it showed again as he missed a tight window attempt into a tight window in the end zone to George Pickens in the third quarter.

His margin for error is just so small compared to most prospects due to his arm talent being mediocre. He stared down a few reads that led to pass breakups, and then didn’t have enough zip or control of the ball on other misses.

It’s getting harder to project him as more than an NFL backup. He should go back to school and continue tightening his reads and mechanics. Doing so could give him the advantages he needs to develop into a potential NFL starter long-term.

Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma

Baylor wanted Jalen Hurts to win with his arm, and he answered the bell with just enough. It wasn’t an easy or successful start though in terms of process despite the completions or decent accuracy chart. Hurts was unsure of early reads and hesitant, causing him to pull the ball down for runs more often than Oklahoma may have preferred.

The pressure also bothered him in the first half until underneath options emerged as hot reads. This changed in the second half, as the Sooners’ offensive line began to enforce their will as they did a few weeks ago in their first matchup. A more comfortable Hurts delivered three key passes that highlighted his placement and passing talent late in the game.

His touchdown in the third quarter that put the Sooners up 20-13 was the best display of his placement improving. He’s using leverage more effectively this year than ever before. Throws like this can’t be stopped unless the defender gets lucky with a swinging arm.

Overall, Hurts will likely continue relying on his legs more than what evaluators want. He’s terrific on the ground, but Baylor challenged him and he reverted to the ground game. This is something that could cost the Sooners against LSU when it becomes a shootout.

Justin Fields, Ohio State

This game was somewhat similar to the Michigan game for Fields. He seemed to have the first half jitters based on how long he held the ball and his misses on some easy attempts. But as he settled in, he only had one notable miss in the red zone to a leaking tight end on third down. His big-play potential took over as the Buckeyes stormed back.

Fields’ second-half included a tremendous escape out of the pocket to his left, where he found K.J. Hill in the end zone for a score. This was the cap to several drives where he eviscerated the Badgers’ zone defense. Though he’s not consistently finding the opening windows, he’s nearly perfect when he does.

His inexperience in these moments is partially to blame, surely. He’s done well to improve throughout the year and during games. He’ll have no time to settle in though as Clemson now looms.

He’s undoubtedly extremely talented and has the “it” factor that Herbert and Fromm seem to lack. Now it’s about finding consistency and sustaining more drives when the throw is there to be made.

Next. 50 best college football uniforms. dark

For more NCAA football news, analysis, opinion and unique coverage by FanSided, including Heisman Trophy and College Football Playoff rankings, be sure to bookmark these pages.