“I put my hand up to say I was open, but I didn’t think he was going to throw it,” Jefferson said in the locker room after the game.
Indeed, it was the type of stirring play that is central to the SEC’s recurring plot, in which a Heisman contender transforms the championship showdown into a showcase. Since 2009, three of the conference’s four Heisman winners starred in the game here days before they claimed the trophy in New York. Burrow, in his final year at L.S.U. after transferring from Ohio State before the start of last season, probably did not need Atlanta’s grand stage to persuade voters, whose ballots are due on Monday.
With the spread offense suddenly in style in Baton Rouge, he entered Mercedes-Benz Stadium with 4,366 yards passing this season, a conference record and second in the nation this year, trailing only Anthony Gordon of Washington State. He had completed more than 78 percent of his passes and become the first player in the league’s history to throw for at least 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in a single season.
“God, he makes us look good with everything he does,” said Joe Brady, L.S.U.’s passing game coordinator. “He’s one of those guys that, he’s just always wanting more. He’s always thinking, he’s on the sidelines talking about, ‘Hey, some things I’m looking for, things I’m liking.’”
Brady went on: “I’m not amazed because it’s kind of the expectation I have for Joe now.”
As the score climbed higher and higher for the Tigers, there came a question of when, or whether, L.S.U. would pull the man so crucial to its quest to win its first national championship since the 2007 season.
He did leave, eventually. There were less than four minutes to play, but Georgia still did not get the ball back. And immediately afterward, L.S.U. could only wonder how the playoff selection committee would slot its squad — and argue, some more convincingly than others, that it was not entirely relevant.
“It don’t matter where they rank us, where they tell us to go,” said Ed Orgeron, the L.S.U. coach. “We’ve got to win the next game. That’s all that matters.”