What a great prelude from SI.com – “From Doug Flutie’smiraculous Hail Mary pass that allowed Boston College to stun Miami 47-45 in 1984 to Auburn’s improbable rally from a 24-0 deficit in last year’s Iron Bow, the Friday after Thanksgiving has seen its share of college football history. This year, No. 1 LSU and No. 3 Arkansas meet on the sport’s unofficial holiday and will re-shape the fluid BCS picture no matter the result. LSU is looking for its first unbeaten SEC season since 1970, while 10-1 Arkansas is seeing at least a share of its fifth SEC West title since joining the conference in 1992. Prep the leftovers; the Tigers and Hogs will provide the entertainment.”
#3 Arkansas Razorbacks (10-1) at #1 LSU Tigers (11-0)
Friday, November 25th 2:00 pm ET – Tiger Stadium, Baton Rouge LA
Two of the top three teams in the nation meet up Friday afternoon in Baton Rouge, with a BCS Championship game in New Orleans on the line – maybe. The BCS’ top teams are all representatives from the SEC West, a powerhouse of college football excellence. LSU is the only undefeated AQ school (Houston is also undefeated, but play in the non-AQ Conference USA) left, and both #2 Alabama and #3 Arkansas have one loss each. The Tigers are 11-0 for the first time since 1958, and have won 10 games by double-digit margins; the exception being a 9-6 victory over ‘Bama on November 5th. Recent history is in favor of the Razorbacks, who have defeated LSU three out of the four last meetings.
Arkansas’ only blemish on their record was a 14-38 loss at the hands of the Crimson Tide in week four, but the Razorbacks had a few narrow escapes against Texas A&M and Vanderbilt. The Arkansas offense is ranked first in the conference in scoring (39.3 ppg), passing (316.9 ypg), and total yards (463.3 ypg), but ninth is rushing with an average of 146.36 ypg. QB Tyler Wilson leads the SEC with 3,215 yards and 292.3 yards per game, and is second in completion percentage (63.1%) and touchdowns (21). RB Dennis Johnson 606 yards and three touchdowns on 91 rushing attempts, 20 receptions for 258 and two scores, and has found the end zone once in 18 kick returns for 461 yards.
The Arkansas defense is sixth in the SEC in scoring, allowing an average of 21.1 and is eighth in the conference in rushing (164.18), passing (196.1), and total defense (360.3). LB Jerry Franklin leads the team with 87 tackles (5th best in the SEC), and DB Tramain Thomas is tied with five other players with four INTs.
LSU’s strongest portion of their game is their defense, which holds opponents to a second-best 10.10 points per game. The Tigers are also second in total yards allowed (247.9 ypg) and third in both rushing (89.64 ypg) and passing (158.3 ypg). Their secondary boasts two of the best DBs in the nation, Morris Claiborne and Tyrann Mathieu, who have four and two interceptions, respectively, while a third DB, Brandon Taylor is the team’s leading tackler with 61.
Although LSU is more noted for their defense, their offense also has the ability for big plays. RB Spencer Ware averages 65 rushing yards per game, and has 650 total yards with seven TDs on 160 attempts. Les Miles has been using both his QBs – playing each one according to their strength. Jarrett Lee has thrown for 1309 yards, 14 touchdowns and three picks, while Jordan Jefferson has rushed for 200 yards on 48 attempts with two scores. Their 37.9 ppg is second only in scoring to Arkansas, and their 206.45 is also second in the SEC. The Tigers have gained 337.1 total yards per game this season.
This is a classic showdown between a high octane offense and a stingy defense that not only likes to hold their opponents to very little points, but likes to turn the ball over as well.
As good as the Arkansas offense has been this season, I think LSU has the ability for big plays of their own, and that defense makes it hard to think they won’t be 12-0 heading into the SEC Championship in Atlanta against the Georgia Bulldogs on December 3rd.