LSU will finally play a football game for the first time since Halloween when heading to Arkansas. The Fightin’ Tigers turned in a frightfully awful effort in their last appearance. They gained only 32 rushing yards and scored just 11 points. Those are the lowest totals for the program in both categories since being shut out by Alabama in November of 2018.
Arkansas has alternated losing with winning since the start of the season. The Razorbacks have not yet defeated an opponent who currently has a winning record. Nevertheless, Sam Pittman has transformed the Razorbacks from the laughingstock of the SEC West into a respectable program once again.
LSU leads the all-time series, 41-22-2. For the few games in played Fayetteville, LSU holds an advantage of 3-2. The Tigers have won the four most recent meetings.
LSU Heads to Arkansas
LSU’s Passing Attack vs Arkansas’ Defensive Backs
Trying to limit opponents’ passing attacks has been a key to how the Razorbacks have fared this season. Arkansas’ secondary allowed opponents to accumulate more than 250 passing yards in four games. Three of those resulted in losses. The Razorbacks gave up two or more touchdowns through the air in four contests. Three of those ended in defeats.
LSU has compiled impressive passing statistics in its five games so far. The Tigers exceeded 300 yards through the air and scored two or more touchdowns in four of those. In fact, they surpassed 400 yards at Missouri along with reaching the endzone four times at Missouri and at Vanderbilt. However, Myles Brennan is expected to miss the remainder of the season and accounted for most of those numbers.
T.J. Finley has started the last two games following Brennan’s injury. At home against South Carolina, he completed 17 of 21 passes for 265 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. At Auburn, he connected on 13 of 24 passing attempts for 143 yards, two interceptions, and no touchdowns.
Max Johnson has appeared in only two games as well. Both times, he substituted for Finley. After Finley lost his helmet during a play against the Gamecocks, Johnson filled in for him for one play then returned late in that game. In total, Johnson had two rushes for 19 yards but no passing attempts.
Johnson also substituted for Finley in the fourth quarter after Auburn had built an insurmountable lead. He completed 15 of 24 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown. That was the sole time that LSU reached the endzone in that game.
Who should start? How much patience will Ed Orgeron have with whoever takes the first offensive snap for LSU at Arkansas? Might the freshmen quarterbacks go into the game knowing that they both will be guaranteed some drives or even an entire quarter?
Will Arkansas Have Enough Players to Take the Field?
Arkansas has been fortunate compared to others in the Southeastern Conference in terms of missing games this season. The Razorbacks have not had to postpone any games due to outbreaks. Although Pittman had to skip the last game after testing positive, a large segment of his players have not had to do so because of the same issue. Unfortunately, two staff members tested positive last weekend. The question is whether Arkansas will lose a significant number of players before kickoff due to those findings. Perhaps Arkansas may even have to forego playing this week due to a shortage of healthy players, depending on how many were exposed.
Motivation for Both Teams
What is the mindset of LSU entering this game? Few of the significant contributors at any position remain from LSU’s national championship team so the experience is lacking. Only a miraculous finish coupled with monumental collapses by Alabama and Texas A&M could result in repeating as SEC West champions. Even the goal of avoiding a losing season will require defeating at least one opponent currently ranked in the Top Ten of both the Associated Press’ and coaches’ poll. Do the current players care about finishing the season winning the majority of the five games remaining on their schedule?
Pittman has reinvigorated Arkansas’ football program. The Razorbacks have already won three games, the largest number since 2017. They had not notched at least three victories in SEC contests since 2016. By defeating these Tigers and the other Tigers from Missouri in the next two contests, Arkansas would avoid a fourth straight losing season. Do the Hogs have the desire to achieve more in 2020 or are they content with merely avoiding another season without any victories in the SEC?
This game lacks appeal in several ways. Neither team enters the matchup ranked in the Top 25 for only the second time since 2008. The kickoff at 11:00 AM local time will likely diminish the enthusiasm of any fans in attendance. That early start will also make it harder for LSU to follow its usual game routines. Since Arkansas views this as a rivalry, while LSU considers it as just another SEC matchup, the Hogs are more motivated to win.
Prediction: Arkansas 38, LSU 31