ANALYSIS: Arkansas at LSU

A closer look at the battle for golden boot between between No. 1-ranked LSU and third-ranked Arkansas with SEC Championship Game and BCS national championship implications on the line.

No. 3 Arkansas (10-1, 6-1) at No. 1 LSU (11-0, 7-0)

1:35 p.m. at Tiger Stadium

WDGL-FM 98.1; XM 91; Sirius 91/CBS

 

Series record: LSU leads 34-20-2 but has lost three of the last four games. In the last six games, only 21 points separates the two teams and two games have required overtime. Four of the last six battles have been settled by three points or fewer and the Razorbacks have outscored the Tigers 186-185 since 2005. LSU has won 11 of 19 meetings since the Hogs joined the SEC.

 

LSU

 

Barkevious Mingo

In the spotlight: DE Barkevious Mingo (6-5, 240, So.)

 

Season stats: 32 tackles, team-high 10½ tackles for loss, 5 sacks, 5 QB hurries, 1 forced fumble

 

Getting pressure on Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson will be a major key for the Tigers’ defense and nobody can get to the quarterback quicker or more consistently than Mingo. Accelerating Wilson’s decision-making time could disrupt the Razorbacks’ offense by forcing him to look for shorter underneath routes instead of waiting for deeper downfield routes to open up. Mingo and Sam Montgomery will play big roles in forcing Wilson out of the pocket and into situations where he has to make decisions on the run instead of standing unfettered and finding receivers who have found a way to wiggle open.

 

Injuries/suspensions: LG Josh Dworaczyk (knee) out for season, S Eric Reid (quad) questionable, RB Alfred Blue (hamstring) questionable, DE Kendrick Adams (knee) probable, S Craig Loston (wrist) probable

 

Schedule (11-0, 7-0)

Sept. 3 LSU 40, #3 Oregon 27

Sept. 10 LSU 49, Northwestern State 3

Sept. 15 LSU 19, #25 Mississippi State 6

Sept. 24 LSU 47, at #16 West Virginia 21

Oct. 1 LSU 35, Kentucky 7

Oct. 8 LSU 41, #17 Florida 11

Oct. 15 LSU 38, Tennessee 7

Oct. 22 LSU 45, #19 Auburn 10

Nov. 5 LSU 9, #2Alabama 6 (OT)

Nov. 12 LSU 42, Western Kentucky 9

Nov. 19 LSU 52, Ole Miss 3

Nov. 25 Arkansas, 1:30 p.m. (CBS)

Dec. 3 SEC Championship Game, 3 p.m. (CBS)

 

 

Arkansas

 

Chris Gragg

In the spotlight: TE Chris Gragg (6-3, 236, Jr.)

 

Season stats: 38 receptions for 457 yards, 2 TDs

 

Razorbacks receivers Jarius Wright, Joe Adams, Greg Childs and Cobi Hamilton will get plenty of attention from the LSU secondary, with the Tigers likely to give man coverage a shot early and often. As good as LSU has been and can be in one-on-one coverage, particularly in shutting down big-play receivers, the Tigers have struggled at times to contend with good pass-catching tight ends. With LSU likely to play mostly 4-2-5, there will be some cracks and crevices in the middle of the field and that’s where the big and physical Gragg could be a major matchup problem against the Tigers linebackers and give Wilson a safety valve if and when he is trying to evade pressure.

 

Injuries/suspensions: RB Knile Davis (knee) out

 

Schedule (10-1, 6-1)

Sept. 3 Arkansas 51, Missouri State 7

Sept. 10 Arkansas 52, New Mexico 3

Sept. 17 Arkansas 38, Troy 28

Sept. 24 #3 Alabama 38, Arkansas 14

Oct. 1 Arkansas 42, #14 Texas A&M 38

Oct. 8 Arkansas 38, #15 Auburn 14

Oct. 22 Arkansas 29, Ole Miss 24

Oct. 29 Arkansas 31, Vanderbilt 28

Nov. 5 Arkansas 44, #10 South Carolina 28

Nov. 12 Arkansas 49, Tennessee 7

Nov. 19 Arkansas 44, Mississippi State 17

Nov. 25 at #1 LSU, 1:35 p.m. (CBS)

Dec. 3 SEC Championship Game, 3 p.m. (CBS)

 

Three keys to the game

 

1. Patience will be a virtue: It can’t be a shock to the Tigers’ system if Arkansas’ offense comes out and strikes quickly and early and puts LSU in the kind of early hole it hasn’t had to deal with often this season. Should that happen, it’s vital that the offense not try to match the Razorbacks step-for-step, but instead remain what it is and do what it needs to continue doing. That means running the ball, grinding out the clock and leaving the Hogs’ offense cooling its heels on the sideline. That said…

 

2. Be ready to pounce: The Tigers can’t be shy about stretching the field against an Arkansas secondary that has shown a propensity for allowing big plays. Running the ball will – as always – be the bread-and-butter. But just like LSU has in so many SEC games, it’s key that the Tigers offensive coaches dial up some play-action, downfield throws for Jordan Jefferson or Jarrett Lee to see if Rueben Randle or Odell Beckham Jr. can capture some lightning in a bottle. The Razorbacks’ defense is susceptible to begin with, and getting them on their heels would be a huge advantage for LSU.

 

3. Don’t let special be too special: LSU has gotten accustomed to dominating special teams this season, but that’s not a realistic option against Arkansas. A big piece of the Razorbacks’ success this season is a result of the kicking games, especially the return games, where they have generated five touchdowns. Joe Adams is as dangerous a return man as LSU will see this season – think Patrick Peterson but shiftier and more experienced with the ball in his hands – and a 24.3-yard kickoff return average has allowed Arkansas to rarely start a drive in the hole. Neutralizing the Hogs’ returns with Brad Wing and James Hairston will remove the damage created by hidden yards.

 

Prediction

After enduring the game of the century at Alabama three weeks ago, the Tigers are right back in the national spotlight against Arkansas and it’s not a stretch to contend that this game is even bigger – perhaps the biggest regular-season game for LSU since 2003. Big games have tended to bring out great performances from the Tigers since Les Miles arrived and the stage is again set for that this week. Look for the Tigers’ offense to find a groove early, the defense to frustrate Arkansas’ high-flying scheme and force the Hogs to play catch-up. The Hogs will find a way to make things interesting in the fourth quarter, but a turnover and sustained drive will propel the Tigers to the win, a perfect regular season and a spot in the SEC Championship Game. … LSU 34, Arkansas 17


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