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Battle for the Golden Boot: A Quarterback Showdown

LSU Arkansas Battle for Golden Boot

LSU is looking to build off a dominant performance as they host Arkansas in its first SEC home game. The Tigers will enter the game as a 17.5-point favorite in the Battle for the Golden Boot. Arkansas doesn’t care. The Razorbacks are coming off a disappointing loss to BYU. They’ll be desperate to erase the bitter taste in the Battle for the Golden Boot.

This game will feature a quarterback showdown with arguably the two best quarterbacks in the SEC, Jayden Daniels and Arkansas’s KJ Jefferson. Arkansas head coach, Sam Pittman, admitted earlier this week that Jefferson was not completely healthy in their loss.

“Yeah, he was a little banged up going into the game…I’m sure that had a little bit with how he was feeling,” Pittman stated.

Although both teams have one loss, it’s evident that the difference between these teams lies in Daniels’ supporting cast.

Close followers of SEC football know that this rivalry does not always simply come down to the most talented team winning. While this isn’t a hate-fueled historic rivalry, both teams have pride in claiming a win over their neighboring state. Arkansas will bring the hunger to get back into the win column and avoid falling to .500. LSU will undoubtedly get a boost from a home crowd that can sense the possibilities in a division that does not have a dominant team. Intangibles aside, this game will ultimately be won on the field.

Trends in the Trenches

Sure, the quarterbacks are great, but games are won up front. LSU’s defensive line is progressing to becoming the unit they thought they were, but the Arkansas offensive line has seemingly regressed. College football fans know the Arkansas offensive lines of the Sam Pittman era for their physical nature. The Hogs struggled in their pass blocking last week, especially on the edges. BYU sacked Jefferson four times and had two fumbles. This is not a good sign when preparing to face a team that has finally allowed their best pass rusher in Harold Perkins to actually rush the passer.

On the other side of the ball, one would expect to see more of freshman right tackle Lance Heard in this game. The Tiger offensive line needs his strength and athleticism as Arkansas has two talented, physical edge players in Trajan Jeffcoat and former LSU transfer Landon Jackson. This defensive line group will be more of a challenge than Mississippi State presented.

Defending Daniels

Arkansas plays an aggressive style of defense with confident cornerbacks in Dwight McGlothern and Lorando Johnson. McGlothern is another former LSU player. Both are physical corners on a defense that plays more man-to-man defense than zone coverages. Arkansas is not shy about sending more than the typical four men in pass rush situations. Unfortunately for them, their defensive identity plays into what LSU does best. Not only will the Tiger receivers invite man coverage. Beyond that, the odds of explosive quarterback runs also increase as secondary defenders turn their backs to the quarterback.

Regardless of coverages last week, Daniels showed poise, accuracy, and the toughness to make throws while taking hits. He won’t have as much time against the Razorback defense, but their aggressiveness could lead to big plays for LSU. There aren’t many answers for a confident Jayden Daniels.

Air Arkansas

With doubts about the availability of star running back Rocket Sanders, Arkansas will have to lean heavily on KJ Jefferson in this game. Brian Kelly is well aware of the talent Jefferson possesses.

“He’s hard to bring down, he’s got a live arm and we’re gonna be prepared for him to play his best against us,” Kelly said regarding Jefferson.

Jefferson has long established himself as one of the conference’s better quarterbacks. However, he hasn’t thrown for over 250 yards in a game this season. Arkansas has 6-4 receivers that will present challenges in Andrew Armstrong and Isaac TeSlaa. The LSU secondary will be tested once again if the Razorback offensive line can give Jefferson time.

It will be interesting to see if LSU continues to play true freshman Ryan Yaites at safety. Considering his comfort level on the road, there’s no reason to think we won’t see more of him. If that’s the case, expect safety Andre Sam to continue his aggressive play in run support. The Tigers will likely commit as many bodies as possible to stopping the 250-pound KJ Jefferson, the most dangerous player on the Arkansas roster.


LSU Arkansas Battle for Golden Boot

Photo courtesy:  Matt Bush-USA TODAY Sports


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