The College Football Playoff has been one of the best things to happen to college sports, giving fans extra postseason football of the highest quality each year. Such contests give way to some legendary performances, and so, today, we are ranking the top 5 performances by signal-callers in the six-year era of the Playoff.
Kyler Murray vs. Alabama, 2018-19 semifinals: 19-37, 308 yds, 17 carries, 109 yds, 3 Total TD
Deshaun Watson vs. Alabama, 2016-17 national championship: 36-56, 420 yds, 21 carries, 43 yds, 4 Total TD
Trevor Lawrence vs. Ohio State, 2019-20 semifinals: 18-33, 259 yds, 16 carries, 107 yds, 3 Total TD
#5 – Deshaun Watson vs. Alabama, 2015-2016 National Championship
The top five kicks off with Watson’s national championship debut, as I believe he actually played slightly better in their defeat to the Crimson Tide. Watson fueled Clemson all game long, tossing for 405 yards and running for 73, accounting for the majority of Clemson’s 550 yards of offense. He tossed a pair of first-quarter touchdowns to Hunter Renfrow, and he kept the Tigers charging after the Tide all night, firing another couple of TDs in the final 5 minutes, before a last-ditch onside kick doomed Clemson. Easily the most impressive performance by a QB in a losing effort in CFP history.
#4 – Tua Tagovailoa vs. Oklahoma: 2018-2019 CFP Semifinals
This was possibly the most well-quarterbacked game from both sides in any CFP game ever, as we already saw Kyler Murray’s effort slotted into our Honorable Mentions. However, unfortunately for the Heisman winner and eventual #1 pick, he was outdueled by Alabama’s Tagovailoa. Although not much of a dual-threat, the Heisman runner-up was lethally precise, completing 24 of 27 passes for 318 yards and 4 touchdowns. He helped Alabama out to a 28-0 lead before the Tide held off a Kyler Murray charge, with Tua staving off the Sooners by hitting DeVonta Smith and Jerry Jeudy for fourth-quarter scores.
#3 – Joe Burrow vs. Clemson: 2019-20 National Championship
You already knew Burrow would be on this list (spoiler: more than once), and he slots in at #3 for his performance in the national championship this past season. Clemson was a stiff defense, and they largely shut down Ohio State after a tough start, yet Burrow made it seem effortless in slapping 42 points on the Tigers, including the last 14 points after Clemson drew within three. Burrow capped off one of the greatest seasons ever by a college quarterback with five touchdowns through the air and another on the ground. He was 31-49 for 463 yards and churned out another 54 with his legs. For the LSU fans – here’s 2:42 of Burreaux dicing the Clemson defense.
#2 – Trevor Lawrence vs. Alabama, 2018-19 National Championship
The last two seasons have culminated in legendary QB performances, so we can only imagine what 2021 will bring. In 2019, Lawrence capped off the first 15-0 season in college football history. After his strong semifinal performance versus Notre Dame that was largely chalked up to an overrated Irish defense, Lawrence came out on a mission in the title game, feasting on the Crimson Tide defense to the tune of 347 yards and three touchdowns. The difference between Burrow at #3 and Lawrence at #2 was razor-thin at most, with the deciding factor being that Clemson largely put away the Tide in the first half, meaning Lawrence wasn’t really in a situation to put up more gaudy statistics as the Tigers closed out Alabama in their 44-16 victory. Also, Lawrence was in his first year of collegiate football, while Burrow was in his fifth. After the run game and defense got Clemson going, Lawrence iced the contest in the second and third quarters. His TD pass with under five minutes to play in the half extended the Clemson lead to 28-16, and his two scoring tosses in the third quarter sent the Tide packing. Incredible peformance from a true freshman with the lights shining brightest.
#1 – Joe Burrow vs. Oklahoma, 2019-2020 CFP Semifinals
Coming into this game, Burrow had to answer a few questions, largely about his health after he suffered from a well-publicized case of the flu in the week leading up to the Oklahoma game. Could the Heisman winner do what he had done all season long? The answer was a resounding yes, as Burrow began smashing CFP records in the first half alone, throwing an astounding 7 touchdown passes. Literally no words can actually describe this performance – far and away the greatest in CFP history. Watching Burrow this game felt like he was being controlled by someone playing Madden (or NCAA Football 2014) on Rookie mode. He made it look that easy.