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Where did Joe Burrow to college? Why Ohio State has claim to LSU legend

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The transfer portal era, with numerous high-profile college football players spending their careers at multiple schools, has led to some fascinating consequences.

Many credited TCU’s use of the portal to quickly transform itself into a national contender under Sonny Dykes. Meanwhile, certain coaches have alleged that major programs are offering quarterbacks millions in name, image and likenes (NIL) money to enter the portal and join their school.

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All of the movement has created a debate centered on which college can “claim” a successful NFL player if he spent time at multiple schools.

Two of the four remaining quarterbacks in the NFL playoffs transferred during their college days. There is an ongoing debate surrounding Eagles QB Jalen Hurts, who played in three national title games at Alabama but was a Heisman Trophy finalist at Oklahoma.

The debate should be a bit clearer for Bengals QB Joe Burrow, but that hasn’t stopped two fan bases from competing for bragging rights.

MORE: Pat Narduzzi backs Mack Brown, says schools offered UNC QB Drake Maye $5M to transfer

Here’s what you need to know about Burrow’s whirlwind college football career.

Where did Joe Burrow go to college?

Burrow split his college career between Ohio State and LSU, but all of his starts came during his time in Baton Rouge. 

Despite the public not typically associating Burrow with Ohio State, he, in fact, spent three of his five collegiate seasons in Columbus. Burrow the player might not be an Ohio State name, but Burrow the student was very much connected to the university. 

Burrow threw fuel onto the debate before last year’s Super Bowl when he told reporters, “I’m definitely still a Buckeye.”

The Bengals star enrolled at Ohio State in 2015 and graduated from the school before transferring to LSU with two years of eligibility remaining. 

Burrow, of course, overcame a middling first season as the Tigers’ starter to have one of the greatest seasons in college football history in 2019. He threw 60 touchdown passes, won the Heisman Trophy and led the Tigers to an undefeated national championship season. 

MORE: SN 50: Remembering Joe Burrow’s record-setting season at LSU

Why did Joe Burrow transfer from Ohio State?

Players typically transfer for one of two reasons: they are seeking more playing time, or they are hoping to secure more NIL money. In Burrow’s case, NIL was not yet legal, so his move from Columbus to Baton Rouge was all about the chance to start.

Burrow said on the “Full Send Podcast” in 2022 the “writing was on the wall” for the late Dwayne Haskins to replace J.T. Barrett as Ohio State’s starter in 2018.

Rather than spend another year on the bench, Burrow wanted the chance to start before it was too late. The transfer portal didn’t exist as it does now, but Burrow didn’t have to sit out a year since he had already graduated. 

BENDER: How Joe Burrow vs. Patrick Mahomes compares to Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning and more

Burrow also said that former Ohio State safeties coach Bill Bush convinced LSU coach Ed Orgeron to pursue him. Obviously, pursuing Burrow was the best decision Orgeron made at LSU. 

Ohio State might not be feeling too much of a sting for losing Burrow, considering Haskins threw for 50 touchdowns himself in 2018 and was succeeded by another first-round pick in Justin Fields, but the college football landscape might have been very different if Ohio State was able to foresee what Burrow would become.

Joe Burrow college stats

Year School Starts Comp pct Yds TD INT
2015 Ohio State 0 N/A 0 0 0
2016 Ohio State 0 78.6 226 2 0
2017 Ohio State 0 63.6 61 0 0
2018 LSU 13 57.8 2,894 16 5
2019 LSU 15 76.3 5,671 60 6
Total   28 68.8 8,852 78 11

Burrow’s first two touchdown passes came in mop-up duty at Ohio State when the Buckeyes held insurmountable leads, but he left his mark at LSU.

The jump from 2018 to 2019 is remarkable. Burrow went from a sub-60 completion rate and only 16 touchdown passes over a full season to astonishing numbers in 2019.

With 5,671 yards, 60 touchdowns and more than 76 percent of passes completed, Burrow’s 2019 season has a real case for being the greatest in college football history.


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