Lists, lists, lists. There are Thanksgiving grocery lists that are long and should be detailed. Don't forget one ingredient or that's the one everyone will remember on Turkey Day.
There's wish lists for Christmas. Some can be quite outrageous. I can remember getting out the Sears catalog to put mine together.
There's packing lists for trout fishing trips. I didn't make them for a long time, then one time I got to the river without my wading boots. You'd also think I could remember my rain jacket. No, it's better to make a list.
Those are fun lists and always prove to be useful if not for the actual event, but also for the mind. There's nothing like anticipation. As they say, looking forward to the trip can be as good (and sometimes sadly) as the actual trip.
I've done these Top 10 Things to Watch for several years on the eve of every football game. They are fun to do, too. Football games are great to witness. But the anticipation is often as good or better.
There's something wonderful about the building to a big football game. It starts with a review of the previous game and that lasts for a couple of days. But sometime on Monday, the mind moves forward to the next opponent. There may be a trip involved and there may be need of a list to make sure everything has been secured.
It's a game so big that we needed two Top 10 lists. Hopefully, this fills you up on a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Reasons to Love the Series
1. The Schedule
In the SEC's infinite wisdom, the schedule was set to make the Arkansas-LSU game to end the season. Often it's been moved to Friday for the benefit of CBS national TV cameras. What's not to love about that. It hasn't always been of national title importance, but of late it sure has been big. So give the SEC brass credit for creativity of schedule and to CBS for taking the ball and running with it. I like the short week. The game gets here more quickly. It can't get here soon enough this week. Both states are about to explode in anticipation.
2. The Boot
Former Arkansas player David Bazzel came up with the idea to create the trophy. You gotta love any trophy that is called The Boot. It's big and heavy. It takes a bunch of linemen to tote it around the field. It makes for a nice video opportunity afterwards. It's in possession of Arkansas now since the Hogs rolled last season in War Memorial Stadium.
3. LSU Fans I
They are an easy target for love. Some are fine folks. Some are not. They douse opposing fans with alcohol in their stadium. Grandmothers hold up babies and fold their tiny little hands into an obscene jesture as the visiting bus rolls into the stadium. Well, they may not do it everytime, but they did at least once. Former UA linebacker Clarke Moore detailed that sad tale after an Arkansas victory there earlier this decade. Moore said it's easy to get up for a game when even the babies are against you.
4. LSU Fans II
No one knows how to party better than the Tigers. They bring the party whether its outside their own stadium, in New Orleans for Mardi Gras or on the road. Outside of a few misguided grandmothers, they have some wonderful fans. They'll share their food outside the stadium while their zydeco bands play their unique music.
5. LSU Tradition I
They have some crazy traditions that you have to love. They like it when their team wears the bland all-white uniforms. They haven't done that much. They usually wear gold pants with white tops, even at home.
6. LSU Tradition II
Their goal posts are old school with two posts in the ground. I think it's so their team knows exactly where to run when they come out to the field.
7. Les Miles I
The LSU coach will make another list in this story for a different reason, but you have to love Les Miles. There are countless cool moments through the year from Miles. You never know when he's going to say something confusing or expound on the problems in the gulf
8. Les Miles II
The LSU coach might also explain the taste of turf. We hesitate to call it "grass" because of the problems the Tigers have had with the synthetic version of mind-altering leaves. Sometimes called Coach Clock for his late game calls, Miles often is at the center of the conversation for not so brilliant thoughts.
9. Border War
The fact that the Tigers live just to the south of Arkansas makes it fun to play them. When you own your neighbor, it makes it delightful for the next 365 days. It can be a drawback, but the last 364 days have made for an enjoyable time. Anytime an LSU fan calls an Arkansas sports talk show (and they can't help but call), it's nice to be able to remind them that your team drove it down their throats to clinch a Sugar Bowl trip last year. That 31-23 victory was just plain fun for Arkansas fans.
10. LSU's Talent
That might seem a bit odd to be included in the list, but it's a simple admission that the Tigers are as good as anyone in the country as far as pure ability year after year. That's what makes it fun to beat them. It's called respect for the pure recruiting grounds of the state. It's nice to have a barometer so that the rest of the nation recognizing your stature after a win against LSU. It's come in handy of late for the Razorbacks. The Tigers don't always do the most with that talent. In fact, there are coaches that screwed it up and lost their job because of it. You should win at LSU, but not everyone understands how to put all the pieces together. Miles has had his troubles. He hasn't kept this team out of trouble.
Top 10 Things to Watch
1. Tyler Wilson
This is number one for a reason. It's always the most important thing in football. Tyler Wilson has been awesome at times this season. He's a weapon. He can throw the ball all over the field and can do it on the move. He's given the Hogs time to develop a rebuilt offensive line. He may not take off down the field like a Cam Newton or even like LSU's Jordan Jefferson. But he can buy time and then deliver the ball in many places from odd angles.
2. Jordan Jefferson
The LSU quarterback was the headliner of the program to start the season. Then he disappeared for most of the year after an arrest following fight outside a bar when he kicked a Marine in the head. Still, Jefferson can be a weapon. He's developed as a passer and will get some easier chances because of the strong LSU ground game led by Spencer Ware, Michael Ford, Alfred Blue and Kenny Hilliard. Jefferson dabbles in the option, but UA linebacker Jerico Nelson blew him up on three straight plays to start the game last year. Jefferson and Nelson were high school teammates. That's a matchup to watch again early this year.
It's the number one thing that Bobby Petrino has preached in the month of November. It should be huge again this year. It might rate higher than quarterback play. Arkansas has gotten better up front on both sides of the ball. Breaking in new tackles was the key to this season. Jason Peacock still gets too many penalties on the weakside, but he's big enough and strong enough to play with the Tigers. Grant Freeman has had a solid if not quiet year at the other tackle. The Hogs have to hold off an LSU defensive front that might be as good as any in the nation. Defensively, the Hogs have become dominant on the defensive front. Can they handle LSU's tall, physical front? Those two battles will probably determine the outcome.
4. Turnovers I
LSU has feasted on opponent turnovers. Right corner Tyrann Mathieu, nicknamed the Honey Badger, is a turnover machine. He causes fumbles and intercepts passes. It will be interesting to see if the Hogs go after him early. The Arkansas wide receivers have a high competitive spirit. They will probably like the challenge. But can they handle it? Tyler Wilson has to protect the football. He has to limit Honey Badger chances by keeping the ball just far enough away from him. Dennis Johnson has fumbled at times this season. No one will hit him harder than the Tigers. The Arkansas wideouts have to protect the ball after the catch. They will make some plays, but they can't try to do too much. The Tigers will punish you after the catch.
5. Turnovers II
No one makes fewer turnovers than the Tigers. Well, not many do. The Tigers make very few mistakes. They don't take a lot of chances because of a good running game. And the Hogs haven't forced many turnovers this season. If the Hogs force some turnovers, that might shake LSU's confidence. The Tigers know this has been their winning edge. It could be the key to the game.
6. Special Teams
This is a huge part of the game. LSU has made big plays against the Hogs in special teams, both in punt returns and kickoff returns the past several seasons. The Tigers have turned the momentum against the Hogs in several key victories in Baton Rouge. This has been a strength for the Hogs this season. But the Hogs haven't faced the team speed of any team like they will in the Tigers. LSU can make plays in special teams, too. They knocked back a West Virginia rally with a kickoff return for a touchdown.
The Hogs have been up and down in this category. The hitting in this game will be at a fever pitch. There will be instances where ultimate discipline will be required. The game could turn on a personal foul. The Hogs gave up a touchdown drive against South Carolina that was almost totally fueled by penalties. Is this the game that Peacock wipes out his penalties? LSU's pass rush is impressive. The Hogs must stay in their stances in the face of Tiger blitzes.
8. Pucker Factor
The stakes are incredible. LSU has been No. 1 for most of the season. Do the Tigers start to feel the pressur? They Bowl Championship Series talk has intensified in the last week. There has been a lot of talk about a possible LSU-Alabama rematch since the Tigers won at Tuscaloosa on Nov. 5, but this is the first week that someone has suggested that someone else could play the Tide. Did the Hogs put any pressure on the Tigers with the jump to No. 3 this week? Maybe the pucker factor finally comes into play for the Tigers. An early play by the Hogs might double it.
No one the Tigers have faced has the combination of playmakers like what Bobby Petrino has assembled at Arkansas. And Petrino knows how to utilize them best. He proved that last year against the Tigers when he saved a pass for Joe Adams with the perfect route against the LSU blitzes for a fourth-and-3 play that ultimately won the game for the Razorbacks. Adams has plenty of help. There's Dennis Johnson, Ronnie Wingo, Jarius Wright, Cobi Hamilton, Chris Gragg, Greg Childs and Marquel Wade. And there's a solid trigger man in Tyler Wilson. The Hogs have proven they can score. Even in the one loss, the two touchdowns against Alabama's defense were more than what LSU could do on the same field.
That's a way to get into what has to be the central theme of everything going on with the Arkansas campus this week. The school was rocked Sunday when tight end Garrett Uekman, actually listed on the depth chart as the No. 2 fullback, died just before noon when an undiagnosed enlarged heart went into arrest. A memorial service was held Monday night and that was the last time anyone outside the football program has been seen. No interviews have been conducted as the team went about the mourning process around the preparations for LSU. Bobby Petrino did not participate in the weekly SEC coaches telephone interview. Assistant coaches were not available per the usual routine. The closest thing to any player comment came on Twitter when reserve offensive line sent this message: "A team with something to play for is dangerous. A team with someone to play for is unstoppable."
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