PREVIEW: SEC West champ Hawgs host Tigers

With a trip to the South Eastern Conference championship already clinched, the Arkansas Razorbacks will host LSU in Little Rock on Friday in hopes of completing their perfect SEC run.

A win would make Arkansas (10-1, 7-0 SEC) the only team to make it through the SEC without a loss, and would keep the Razorbacks hopes of a National Championship shot alive.

 

The Tigers' bowl future also depends on the game with Arkansas, with a victory over the Hawgs likely getting LSU (9-2, 5-2 SEC) a place in a BCS bowl game.

 

Since losing the season opener 50-14 against Southern California, Arkansas has won 10 straight games, including a dramatic double-overtime victory over Alabama, a dominant performance against Tennessee and, most recently, a 28-14 win at Mississippi State.

 

The Tigers enter the game coming off a dramatic 23-20 overtime victory over Ole Miss, and, though all hopes of making it to Atlanta for the SEC title game are gone, can keep their BCS dreams alive and play the role of spoiler with a win over the Razorbacks.

 

LSU leads 32-17-2 in the series against Arkansas, including a 19-17 win in Baton a year ago. The Tigers have won the last three meetings between the two teams, and four of the last five, with Arkansas' last winning coming in a dramatic 21-20 win in the final seconds of the 2002 contest.

 

Leading the Razorbacks at quarterback this season has been true freshman Mitch Mustain, though he has taken a back seat the past two weeks to sophomore Casey Dick. Dick played a similar role for Arkansas last year, making his first collegiate appearance as the starter against South Carolina and retaining the starting job for the final four games of the season.

 

With three starts this season, Dick has completed 43 of 72 passes for 716 yards and seven touchdowns while allowing two interceptions. Mustain has thrown for 853 yards and 10 touchdowns with eight interceptions on the year.

 

Leading the team on the other end of the passing game has been junior wide receiver Marcus Monk, who led the Razorbacks in receiving last year with 476 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 starts.

 

Through 11 games this season, Monk has tallied nine touchdowns and 859 receiving yards on 45 catches. Joining Monk in the receiving game have been junior fullback Peyton Hillis and freshman split end Damian Williams, with receiving totals of 159 yards and 221 yards, respectively.

 

On the ground, Arkansas has accumulated 2,537 rushing yards, led by All-SEC sophomore tailback Darren McFadden, who busted onto the scene last year when he earned Freshmen All-American honors with 1,113 rushing yards, the most ever by an Arkansas freshman.

 

This season, McFadden has carried the ball 223 times for a total of 1,303 yards and 12 touchdowns, leading the SEC in both rushing and scoring.

 

Also making noise in the backfield is another sophomore tailback in Felix Jones. Jones has run for 824 yards on 111 carries this season, and is currently fourth in the conference in rushing, making the Arkansas ground game one of the most dangerous in the league.

Paving the way for the rushers is one of the SEC's most experienced offensive lines, consisting of center Jonathan Luigs, guards Robert Felton and Stephen Parker and tackles Zac Tubbs and Tony Ugoh.

 

Luigs earned freshman All-SEC honors, and was a freshman All-American selection by several publications last year, while Felton, Parker and Ugoh were all regulars on the line last season. Tubbs also brings experience to his position, though he was limited by an injury last.

 

Senior tight end Wes Murphy also brings experience to the offensive line, starting in five games last season.

 

On the other side of the ball, Arkansas has allowed 117.2 yards per game on the ground, with a front headed by defensive ends Jamaal Anderson and Antwain Robinson.

 

Anderson leads the team with 10 of the Razorbacks 27 sacks on the year, while Robinson has contributed 6.5 of his own. Anderson sack total ranks atop the SEC standings.

 

On the inside of the defensive line are tackles Keith Jackson and Ernest Mitchell, who have compiled 9.5 tackles for losses collectively. Jackson also has one interception, returning it 69 yards for a touchdown.

 

At linebacker, Arkansas features the trio of Weston Dacus, Matt Hewitt and All-SEC selection Sam Olajubutu. Olajubutu led the team in tackles last year and was third in the conference with 118, and paces the team again this year with 89 tackles and 13 quarterback hurries in 10 games. Dacus is second on the team with 76 tackles, while Hewitt adds 56 of his own.

 

As a team, Arkansas has recorded two safeties this season.

 

The Razorback secondary, which consists of free safety Michael Grant, strong safety Randy Kelly and cornerbacks Chris Houston and Matterral Richardson, has allowed 180.1 passing yards per game this season and 14 touchdowns, while the team has recorded 12 interceptions.

 

Kelly leads the secondary in tackles with 70, while Grant has tallied a team-leading three interceptions. Houston and free safety Kevin Woods have each pitched in with two picks, while Richardson has one interception of his own.

 

Houston has returned his two picks for 129 yards one touchdown, and leads the team in broken-up passes with 10.

 

On special teams, Jeremy Davis has served as place kicker for Arkansas, going 6-11 on field goal tries and 38-39 on extra points. Brian Vavra has handled the kickoff responsibilities, with 17 of his 59 kicks resulting in touchbacks.

 

Punting for the Razorbacks for the fourth season is Jacob Skinner. Skinner has averaged 38.5 yards per punt this season on 44 tries, landing 21 of those inside the 20-yardline.

Several players have handled punt returns for Arkansas this season, with Hillis leading the way with eight attempts for 92 yards.

 

Felix Jones and McFadden have shared the kickoff return duties, with Jones averaging 25.7 yards on 15 returns and McFadden averaging 28.2 yards on eight tries. Both players have returned a kick for a touchdown this season.


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