LSU Tigers vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Complete Game Preview
LSU fans are still hurting.
Head coach Les Miles had Alabama's Nick Saban against the ropes with a 13-10 lead late in the fourth quarter. But the clutch Crimson Tide would score 10 unanswered points to win 20-13 in overtime, making it four straight wins for Saban over Miles.
Now, the Tigers will have to travel north to play Arkansas, who has had its fair share of heartbreak. The Razorbacks are 0-13 in SEC play under head coach Bret Bielema.
Despite Arkansas' winless record in the conference, it is slightly favored against the Tigers. The Razorbacks are coming off a bye week and have covered the spread in every game they have played in Fayetteville. It will be a frigid Saturday with a chance of rain and snow, per Weather.com.
Eight of the last nine matchups between LSU and Arkansas have been decided by one possession or less, though the Tigers have won the last three. It took a magical 99-yard drive led by quarterback Anthony Jennings to defeat Arkansas 31-27 last season.
What You Need to Know
Time: 7 p.m. CT
Place: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Arkansas
Spread: Arkansas by 1.5, via OddsShark.com
LSU Keys to Victory
Catch the Football
LSU dropped an embarrassing amount of passes against Alabama. Trey Quinn, Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural and Melvin Jones' bad case of the butterfingers cost the Tigers dearly.
LSU's receivers need to help out struggling quarterback Anthony Jennings by making the simple catches. Dealing with possible snow will be an issue, but the Tigers do have a favorable matchup against the Razorbacks. Arkansas' secondary has allowed SEC opposition to throw for 270 yards per game, which ranks 13th in the conference.
Survive the Elements
Temperatures will drop below 30 degrees in Fayetteville on Saturday. For the Tigers, who are used to playing in warm weather, it will feel like playing in Antarctica.
It might take LSU a few drives early to get used to playing in the cold. The low temperatures would be an even bigger issue if the Tigers ran a pass-oriented offense. Expect Miles to run the ball early and often before giving Jennings freedom to throw frequently.
Arkansas Keys to Victory
Dominate the Trenches
The Razorbacks love to pound the ball behind their offensive line, which is the biggest in college football. It will be put to the test by a vastly improved LSU defensive line Saturday.
LSU's offensive line is no slouch, either. It will face an underrated Arkansas front that held Alabama and Mississippi State to 66 and 183 rushing yards, respectively, both of which were season lows.
The team that controls the trenches will likely be the victor Saturday.
Prevent the Big Play
Arkansas' biggest flaw under Bielema has been the amount of explosive plays the defense has given up. The Razorbacks' secondary has allowed a whopping 10.5 yards per attempt against conference opposition. No other SEC team has allowed over 10.
The Hogs' porous secondary cost them dearly against Mississippi State and Texas A&M this season. Last year, they allowed Jennings to throw an easy 49-yard strike to Dural for the game-winning touchdown.
Jennings might not be a polished passer, but he does throw a catchable deep ball. The Razorbacks secondary must not allow Dural and Dupre to run free.
LSU Players to Watch
LSU could muster only 3.3 yards per carry against Alabama. The Tigers' leading rusher, Leonard Fournette, was held to just 79 yards on 21 carries.
On Saturday, the Tigers will rely heavily on Fournette and the rest of LSU's running backs. Their longest run was for a measly 13 yards. They will need to break more tackles and gain extra yardage against Arkansas.
Defensive tackle Davon Godchaux has emerged as one of LSU's best defensive linemen. Godchaux played with tremendous technique and physicality against Alabama, which is a big reason why the Crimson Tide struggled to run the ball.
Godchaux must be prepared for the talented offensive guard duo of Sebastian Tretola and Denver Kirkland on Saturday. The two have a reputation of mauling the opposition, so the true freshman must continue his fantastic play against a rested Arkansas front.
Arkansas Players to Watch
Hunter Henry could be the best tight end in the SEC. Henry's 26 catches and two touchdowns are not eye-popping numbers, but quarterback Brandon Allen's play has not been the smoothest.
Henry's seven catches for 110 yards against Mississippi State were both career highs. He caught two touchdowns last season in Death Valley.
If Arkansas can establish the run, expect to see him utilized heavily in the play-action passing game.
Arkansas defensive end Trey Flowers can rush the passer and stop the run equally well. Flowers is the driving force behind a surprisingly effective Arkansas run defense.
Flowers will be the most well-rounded defensive end the Tigers have faced. He has wreaked havoc against the Tigers throughout his career. Expect to see offensive coordinator Cam Cameron give him different looks to keep him off-balance.
What They Are Saying
Cornerback Rashard Robinson was suspended for LSU's clash against Alabama, per Ross Dellenger of The Advocate. Miles announced at his weekly press conference Monday that Robinson will not practice this week:
Miles on Robinson: "Indefinite suspension. Wouldn't expect you to see him in the short term." #LSU— Ross Dellenger (@DellengerAdv) November 10, 2014
Miles took time to recognize the talents of Arkansas running backs Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, per Robert Stewart of Tiger Rag:
Les: Arkansas plays everybody competitively. Praises their RB duo, Collins and Williams.— Robert Stewart (@TigerRagRobert) November 10, 2014
Bielema gave a positive injury report at his weekly press conference, per Robbie Neiswanger of the Arkansas News Bureau:
Bret Bielema said Arkansas should be close to full strength for LSU. Cameron Jefferson still isn't back from his knee injury.— Robbie Neiswanger (@NWARobbie) November 10, 2014
Bielema also warned fans about the frigid forecast for Saturday, per syndicated sports talk host Bo Mattingly:
Bielema on cold weather Sat: For fans, if you need to walk around in the cold weather at night to get acclimated to it, that would be great.— Bo Mattingly (@SportsTalkwBo) November 10, 2014
Arkansas was a massive underdog against LSU last season and choked away a precious conference victory. Now, the Razorbacks are favored but still looking for the coveted first SEC win under Bielema.
Neither of LSU's last two victories over Arkansas was a glowing performance. Miles must have his team fired up after a heartbreaking collapse against Alabama.
The Razorbacks' winless conference record is somewhat deceiving. Arkansas lost close affairs against Texas A&M, Alabama and Mississippi State. Bielema, despite mediocre quarterback play from Allen, has been 7-2 against the spread this season.
Special teams always play a major factor in close games. Arkansas' field-goal kicking has been nothing short of a disaster. The Razorbacks' seven attempts and four makes is the second-lowest total of any Power Five conference team in the country. On the other hand, LSU kicker Colby Delahoussaye is amongst the country's best, having made 10 of 11.
Punting also sways in favor of LSU, as Jamie Keehn ranks second in the SEC in yards per punt. Arkansas' Sam Irwin-Hill's 40.5 yards per punt ranks last in the conference.
For the Razorbacks to have a chance, they have to run the ball effectively. The Hogs should have some success on the ground coming off a bye week. Trusting Allen to win the game against LSU's defensive backs is a near death sentence.
The offensive and defensive lines are pretty even. LSU does, though, have a sizable advantage at receiver and in the secondary, but that would be limited if there is some form of precipitation.
There is a chance of an LSU letdown. The Tigers' loss against the Crimson Tide put holes in their hearts. A win would certainly mean more to the winless Razorbacks in front of a desperate home crowd. If the Tigers are motivated, they should win a close one Saturday.
Score: LSU 17, Arkansas 14