Bowling in Baton Rouge

BATON ROUGE, La. -- They won't spend the holidays soaking up the sun in a vacation hot spot like Orlando, Fla, or absorbing the sights and sounds of Dallas.

They won't get to run around in the bright lights of Nashville, Tenn., spend a week in Atlanta or even re-visit a familiar destination like Shreveport, La.

Arkansas lost its chance to go bowling this winter after a 2-6 start, which eliminated the Razorbacks from postseason play for the second straight season. But the way Arkansas sees it, everything it wants still is waiting in LSU's Tiger Stadium.

"This game, for us, is to see exactly where we're at," said Arkansas sophomore defensive tackle Marcus Harrison. "We have something to prove. Not just for ourselves, but for the world, too."

Arkansas (4-6, 2-5 in Southeastern Conference) can reclaim the Golden Boot trophy on national television, knock off a ranked team and finish an otherwise frustrating season with a three-game win streak at No. 3 LSU (9-1, 6-1) this afternoon. It's not a bowl game, but coach Houston Nutt and the Razorbacks spent the shortened week treating their annual, day-after-Thanksgiving tilt with the Tigers like one in hopes of making an impression in their final game.

It's all Arkansas has left in a season that got off to a rocky start, but has improved after back-to-back wins against Ole Miss (28-17) and Mississippi State (44-10).

"If we win this game, it's a nice three-game win streak and we can jump start this program for next year," said senior linebacker Pierre Brown. "It's a great feeling to go out on a winning note, win your last game. It can't get any better than that."

Brown is one of 12 Arkansas seniors looking to end their careers with a win and a chance to reclaim the Golden Boot. The 4-foot, 200-pound, 24-karat gold trophy, which has been awarded to the LSU-Arkansas winner since 1996, has resided in Baton Rouge ever since the Tigers' 55-24 win in Tiger Stadium in 2003.

Getting it back has been the primary focus of Arkansas' preparations this week.

"We've got to get that back here," said right tackle Robert Felton. "Claim what's ours. That's not going to happen if we don't produce. But if we keep producing like we've been taught, I think we'll get that boot back to its rightful owner."

To do so, the Razorbacks will have to wear out their welcome in one of the most hostile environments in college football. Arkansas hasn't had much success in Tiger Stadium -- they're 1-6-1 all-time -- and haven't won there since 1993.

They also haven't had much success against the Tigers lately, dropping their past two by a combined score of 98-38.

LSU must beat Arkansas for the third straight year to claim their third, SEC Western Division championship in the past four seasons. If not, Auburn will advance to next Saturday's SEC Championship Game against Georgia.

"We're treating it like a bowl game," said Arkansas defensive tackle Keith Jackson. "We want to stop them from sweeping the West and mess up some things for them since we've got nothing going besides this big game right here. I don't think they're going to roll their helmets out there. They know they've got a lot to play for.

"If they lose, they know what's going to happen. So they're coming to play."

The Tigers were affected by the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina earlier this fall, but have won eight straight since the 30-27, overtime loss to Tennessee. Sophomore quarterback JaMarcus Russell has led LSU to four, come-from-behind wins, while the defense has held eight straight opponents to 17 points or less.

Arkansas is confident it can compete after the past two weeks, in which true freshman quarterback Casey Dick has energized an offense that was dependent on tailback Darren McFadden's talents. In addition, defensive coordinator Reggie Herring's unit continues to improve, pressuring quarterbacks, stuffing ground games and holding its past three opponents to a combined 41 points.

"We see (Arkansas) as a real competitive team," LSU coach Les Miles said. "I think it's pretty obvious they have improved. We understand that they're a good special teams unit, that they have a good defense, good offense. We understand the change at quarterback, the excellence they have in their running game.

"We kind of see their evolution. We expect a very competitive game. We feel like we'll be up to that challenge."

Arkansas has dropped its past 10 games against ranked opponents, including 2005 losses to Southern California (70-17), Alabama (24-13), Auburn (34-17) and Georgia (23-20). The Razorbacks also have lost six straight against ranked teams on the road. And they're 11-20 against ranked teams during Nutt's eight-year tenure.

LSU is the third, top 5 team Arkansas will face this season, joining No. 1 USC and then-No. 4 Georgia. The Razorbacks are 3-11 against top 10 teams since 1998 and are looking for their first stunner since the 38-28 win at Texas in 2003.

"Ever since I've been here, we've never beaten LSU," said right guard Jeremy Harrell. "When I came in here (in 2002), we had (the Golden Boot). This is a very important game for us because we're not playing for a bowl. This is our bowl game.

"We're going to do everything we can to tote that big boot back up here."

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