Burrow’s turn to see if he can stem the Tide

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Growing up in the Midwest, LSU quarterback Joe Burrow didn’t follow the Tigers’ rivalry with Alabama much.

But it seems to be following him.

On LSU’s open date last weekend the graduate transfer went home to Athens, Ohio. While changing planes in Charlotte, North Carolina, a fan in purple and gold spotted him and yelled encouragement for this week’s game with the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide (8-0, 5-0 Southeastern Conference). At his final stop at the Columbus, Ohio, airport, a fan in LSU gear was waiting at baggage claim, begging for a selfie.

Burrow obliged. “I don’t know how long he’d been waiting,” he said.

But so much for getting away from it all, for decompressing with a weekend away from the pressure of breaking LSU’s frustrating seven-game losing streak to the Crimson Tide.

“I knew it was always a big game, but I didn’t live down here, so I wasn’t engulfed in it,” he said, adding a now-I-know look. “But I’m excited for it.

“One thing I’ve noticed, though, is that every fan base, not a lot of them like Alabama. And I know (now) how much this means to Louisiana, the fans.”

Burrow is probably the key.

Head coach Ed Orgeron said the Tigers are “going to have to be able to run the football like we did against Georgia,” and surely the Tigers will give it the ol’ college try.

But history would be skeptical as in recent years the Tide have stuffed the likes of Jeremy Hill, Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice.

Of course, history doesn’t bode well for LSU quarterbacks, either, as the Tigers have twice been shut out during the seven-game losing streak and haven’t cracked 17 points.

Burrow, whose statistics probably haven’t matched his production, is next up.

“One thing you can bet on, I’m going to give it my all,” said Burrow, who added he felt more confident going into this game than his first start against Miami or his first SEC game against Auburn.

Burrow said he doesn’t know the five LSU quarterbacks who started and came up short during the Bama losing streak.

He did a Facetime phone session with last year’s quarterback, Danny Etling, who probably didn’t have much to share after two struggling performances against the Tide while otherwise bringing some stability to the position.

Zach Mettenberger (2011-13) sent him a pick-me-up text after LSU’s loss to Florida.

Unfortunately, the text offered no advice — Mettenberger was about the only LSU quarterback who had any real success throwing against the Tide this decade, albeit in vain.

His 298-yard effort in 2012 was spoiled by a late Bama touchdown in a 21-17 loss in Tiger Stadium. He was knocked out late in 2013’s 38-17 loss while throwing for 241 yards.

Those two games account for more than half the passing yards LSU has had against the Tide in the seven games. Three times LSU has been held under 100. The quarterbacks have thrown just four touchdown passes while getting sacked 26 times.

Burrow said he doesn’t see a need to study the sordid history — the only game he’s watched tape of was the one that started the skid, the Bowl Championship Series title game following the 2011 season in which Jordan Jefferson had a historically bad game.

Maybe it’s just as well he hasn’t overanalyzed it.

“I’m not scared of this game,” Burrow said. “No one on this team is scared of this game. If you’re timid, then don’t come out of that locker room.”

The moment isn’t likely to overwhelm him. Burrow is laid back to the point he sometimes looks comatose during interviews.

“That’s kind of how I’ve always been,” Burrow said. “But nervousness comes from lack of preparation so I’m going to prepare very hard this week like I always do.”

“I believe in Joe,” Orgeron said. “The team believes in him. Feel good about him.

“Joe is not going to panic. He’s going to be confident, want to play his best game. He’s got that linebacker mentality. This is tough game. He’s tough. You’re going to get hit, there’s going to be some punches thrown … but I think Joe is seasoned enough that he can go through that, not panic, put us in the right situation.”

Burrow said he did plan to watch last year’s 26-10 LSU loss — and he’ll notice the Tigers had some chances to hit on some deep balls but Etling couldn’t connect.

“We had DJ (Chark) open a couple of times,” Orgeron recalled. “I do believe that Joe has proved he can throw the deep ball … I do believe Joe can make that throw. It’s all going to start with protection.”

The fourth-ranked Tigers (7-1, 4-1) will have their offensive line intact for the first time since the season opener.

“I’m excited,” Burrow said. “This is why you work so hard when you’re 12-13 years old, for opportunities like this. Lots of people don’t have this opportunity. I’m honored. This is why you play football.”

Saturday 7 p.m. | CBS

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