Some are sorry to see the 2008 season end, while others are already anxiously looking ahead to 2009 to see if this year was just a case of not getting the breaks or a sign of things to come for the LSU faithful.
The Tigers, coaches and players, have two games left counting the bowl game to end the campaign on a positive note and finish with a 9-4 record overall and a .500 mark in conference play.
That’s not what the LSU nation has grown accustomed to and it does not meet Miles’ expectations either. But a 9-4 finish is not as bad as some would lead you to believe. However, the way the Tigers dropped those four contests is.
Some will point the finger at Ryan Perrilloux while others point it at Jarrett Lee. There are those who place the blame on Les Miles and there are more who vent their frustration towards Doug Mallory and Bradley Dale Peveto.
A few key injuries have hurt the Tigers this year, but not nearly as much as the inconsistent play from veterans who were being heavily counted on such as Ricky Jean-Francois, Demetrius Byrd and Curtis Taylor.
There are issues that need to be addressed and according to Miles there will be strong adjustments made.
Let’s hope some of those adjustments are made by Friday because if not then Tiger fans may be singing the blues yet again.
A Look at the Arkansas Offense
How many guys named Dick can Arkansas have at quarterback?
In only his second collegiate game, Nathan completed 25-of-43 passes for 333 yards with three touchdowns. The number that really excited the Petrino brothers, however, was the one interception he tossed.
Picks have been a problem for Arkansas this year as Casey has thrown 14 interceptions against 11 touchdowns. That, along with the concussion, allowed his younger brother to get his shot and he will get another one against the Tigers.
Big brother had started 28 consecutive games for the Hawgs prior to last week and is only 198 yards shy of taking over second place for passing yards in Arkansas history.
If Nathan falters then expect to see Casey get a shot and to improve his numbers of 2,389 yards on 187-of-328 passing.
Arkansas’ chances of pulling off the upset against LSU took a big hit when Michael Smith went down with a hamstring injury last week.
Smith is second in the conference at 107.2 yards a game and had rushed for 1,072 yards and eight scores on 207 carries.
The talented back is not expected to play against the Tigers and if that holds true then the Hawgs will go with a running back by committee in Brandon Barnett (9-45-1), D’Anthony Curtis (22-74) and Dennis Johnson (18-57).
The Hawgs are 11th in the league in rushing at 113.1 yards a game so when you take Smith out of the equation that leaves Petrino with virtually nothing to work with.
As expected with a Petrino offense, the passing game is what carries this team and several receivers have stepped up. Arkansas is second in the SEC at 257.7 yards a game and averages 21.1 points a contest.
D.J. Williams is second to only Brandon LaFell in the SEC in receptions with 53 and he’s amassed 672 yards and three touchdowns. LSU's linebackers have struggled at covering tight ends all year long so this is a big matchup problem for the Tigers.
Lucas Miller emerged last week as a viable threat for the Hawgs and had a career high 10 catches for 201 yards and a touchdown. That was only the second time in school history that a player had more than 200 yards receiving in a game and it pushed his season totals to 27 catches for 443 yards and a pair of scores.
If LSU is looking for a weakness to attack then look no farther than the Arkansas offensive line.
The Razorbacks have allowed 40 sacks on the year which is the most in all of the Football Bowl Subdivision ranks. And if you’re wondering, the FBS includes 119 schools.
A Look at the Arkansas Defense
The Hawg “D” has been bad this year and is statistically worse than LSU in just about every category imaginable.
Arkansas is 12th in the conference at scoring defense at 31.3 points a game, while LSU is 11th at 25.5.
The Hawgs are dead last at giving up 381.6 yards a contest whereas LSU is 10th at 320.
Arkansas is in the cellar with rushing defense at 171.6 yards a game allowed, but the Hawgs do fare better against the pass, checking in at 210 yards a game compared to LSU's 215.5.
Leading the way up front for the Hawgs is defensive tackle Malcolm Sheppard. The junior from Bainbridge, Ga. is third on the team with 60 stops and he leads the team with 12 quarterback hurries. His four forced fumbles and 11 tackles for loss also leads the defense, while his 4.5 sacks ranks second to Adrian Davis’ total of five, who also has 40 tackles including eight behind the line of scrimmage.
Jerry Franklin leads the team with 82 tackles and he’s also picked off a couple of passes. The redshirt freshman has played every linebacker spot for the Hawgs, and he’s expected to play in the middle this week in place of Wendel Davis (53 tackles), who is still recovering from a leg injury and is considered doubtful according to Bobby Petrino.
Freddy Burton is another active linebacker for the Hawgs and is second on the team with 65 tackles.
Former Shreveport-Evangel star Ramon Broadway is tied for the team lead in interceptions with two and he’s broken up a team-leading 10 passes on the year.
Isaac Madison has been starting opposite of Broadway at the other corner spot and he has one pick to go with his 34 tackles. Matt Harris (50 tackles, 1 INT) and Dallas Washington (40 tackles) are a couple of safeties that see time in the secondary.
A Look at the Arkansas Special Teams
Alex Tejada missed a field goal last week that would have sent the game into overtime, and on the year he’s been good on 3-of-4 kicks inside of 39 yards. The problem is from 40 or longer he’s missed all four tries.
While the Hawgs can’t rely on Tejada, they can count on Jeremy Davis, who averages 42.6 yards a punt.
Arkansas has gotten basically zero production from the punt return game, but Dennis Johnson has taken one kick back to the house for 96 yards and averages 22.9 a kick return.
What more can you ask for then to have the opportunity to lug around that 24-karat boot trophy that the winner receives?
All joking aside, the last three meetings have been decided by a total of nine points and have all gone down to the wire.
The last blowout was in 2004 when LSU poured it on 43-14 in Little Rock.
LSU true freshman quarterback Jordan Jefferson is expected to make his first start for the Tigers and this is the Hawgs’ bowl game.
Nothing worse than having to ask Jordan Jefferson to make his first start on the road the day after Thanksgiving.
The crowd noise shouldn’t be too big of a problem for the true freshman, but the Tigers always seem to come out lethargic in this annual Turkey Bowl.
LSU's defense has struggled all year and there is no reason to believe that the Hawgs will not pose problems for the LSU secondary and put some points on the board.
Arkansas has all sorts of problems along the offensive line so blitz, blitz, and more blitzing should be the theme of the day early on so that Nathan Dick does not get into a rhythm.
Some may say just let LSU's front four put pressure on Dick, but that hasn’t been the case much this year and the Tigers can’t let Arkansas jump out early.
There is no reason that LSU shouldn’t be able to run at will against this Arkansas defense and Charles Scott should be able to have a big day.
The bottom line is that if LSU runs the ball effectively and does not get into a hole early then the Tigers win.
Jefferson is going to see a lot of disguises by the Arkansas defense and LSU can’t put the game on his shoulders and expect a victory.
If Jefferson has to win this game then LSU loses, but Scott and a veteran offensive line wouldn’t dare do that to the young signal caller.
LSU 31, Arkansas 21