Arkansas vs. No. 1 LSU

With rumors swirling about his future after 10 years at Arkansas, Houston Nutt will try to lead the visiting Razorbacks (7-4) to an upset of No. 1 LSU (10-1) in a 1:30 p.m. game that will be nationally televised.

BATON ROUGE, La. -- Houston Nutt can recall the exact date of when he was introduced as Arkansas' football coach in 1997.

It was Dec. 10, which coincidentally is the same day as his wedding anniversary with his wife, Diana.

Perhaps it's fitting that the two memorable events occurred on the same date, though separated by several years. In a way, Nutt's tenure with the Razorbacks has been like a marriage.

There have been plenty of good times, some rough stretches and much speculation over the past few days that Arkansas and Nutt are close to getting a divorce.

"It's amazing. There has been 26 (coaching) changes around that head table (in the Southeastern Conference) from that time -- 1998 to now," Nutt said this week. "So I know I'm fortunate."

In the 10 years since Nutt was hired at Arkansas, he has gained more fond memories than he can recall in one sitting. He remembers running through the "A" for the first time as a coach, the Miracle on Markham, the seven-overtime win at Kentucky and the two wins over Texas.

But one thing Nutt has never accomplished during his 10-year tenure at Arkansas -- which may be on the verge of coming to an end -- is knocking off a top-ranked opponent.

He's had two previous opportunities, against Tennessee during his first season with the Razorbacks in 1998 and against the University of Southern California during his worst season in 2005. He came up short both times.

Nutt will get another chance at 1:30 p.m. today in the regular-season finale against No. 1 LSU (10-1, 6-1 SEC) in Tiger Stadium (CBS).

And if this is his final game with the Razorbacks -- as some reports have claimed --he could go out with one final memory of upsetting LSU and shaking up the national championship picture in the process.

A win over LSU would also improve Arkansas' bowl opportunities, perhaps earning the Hogs (7-4, 3-4) a trip to the Cotton Bowl.

"We kind of use all the distraction stuff as motivation because we look at it as, if we can go out there and play with all the distractions going on and still play good, then imagine what we could do without all of it," Arkansas cornerback Michael Grant said.

Reports surfaced last Friday that Nutt was not expected to return next season to coach the Razorbacks. Arkansas officials have denied the reports, and several sources told The Morning News that no decision has been made about Nutt's future.

His contract runs through Dec. 31, 2012, but it's looking more likely that the Little Rock native who once played quarterback for the Hogs won't last that long.

Nutt and incoming athletic director Jeff Long are expected to sit down sometime after today's game, perhaps in the next few days. Following their meeting, more should be known about whether Nutt will be back in 2008.

In the meantime, Nutt has told his players not to get caught up in the rumors circulating on the Internet, in the newspapers and on TV. He repeated that sentiment during a team meeting Sunday.

"We're behind Coach Nutt 100 percent, and I think that showed (in last Saturday's 45-31 win) against Mississippi State," Arkansas center Jonathan Luigs said.

Nutt's future has been a hot topic throughout a regular season that has featured enough highs and lows to resemble the Ozark Mountains.

A number of Arkansas fans have been calling for Nutt's job over the past year, and they've expressed their displeasure by booing the coach and paying for disparaging banners to be flown around Reynolds Razorback Stadium on gamedays.

But current players such as Heisman Trophy candidate Darren McFadden and former stars such as quarterback Clint Stoerner and linebacker Sam Olajubutu have come to Nutt's defense.

"I think it's sad that athletics have come to that to where a coach can win 10 games one season and if he doesn't match that or top that the next year, his job is at stake," Stoerner said this week.

In his two years at Arkansas before Nutt's hiring, Stoerner said the atmosphere was "awful" and "nobody wanted to go to practice" during back-to-back 4-7 seasons under former coach Danny Ford. That changed when Nutt arrived, Stoerner said.

Olajubutu, meanwhile, said he noticed something "unique" about Nutt compared to the other coaches who visited the undersized linebacker during the recruiting process.

"I wish Coach Nutt the best. I wish Arkansas the best. It's very unfortunate that he has to leave if he has to leave," Olajubutu said this week. "And I think they'll realize what they're missing when it's gone."

There is a chance the divorce papers could be coming soon.

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