Last Saturday, LSU showed what the team is capable of with a dominating win on both sides of the football against the Mississippi State Bulldogs. Now, they will be looking to continue that positive momentum as they will face off against the Arkansas Razorbacks for the Battle of the Golden Boot. This has been an entertaining rivalry between both of these SEC West foes. In fact, the last three matchups have been decided by three points with LSU winning two of the last three matchups including a gritty 13-10 win over the Razorbacks last year. In that game, Harold Perkins Jr. had a coming out game with four sacks and two forced fumbles. A major difference from last year’s game and this year’s game was that the Razorbacks were without the services of their big, 6’3, 250 pound quarterback KJ Jefferson because of a shoulder injury.
However, the Razorbacks’ star quarterback will return a year later in a rare early season matchup that has often been played in mid to late November.
Over his long, productive career, the Razorbacks’ redshirt senior has thrown for 6,433 yards and 54 touchdowns while also running for 1,509 yards and 20 more touchdowns on the ground. Through three games, Jefferson has completed 71% of his passes for 629 yards and six touchdowns.
“He is a really big quarterback. We definitely can’t be tackling up high. He’s the type of quarterback that is willing to drop his shoulder down. We got to be sure to wrap up while the backside pursuit is there to bring him down.”LSU DE Saivion Jones on challenges of bringing KJ Jefferson down
“Fundamentally, we need to keep the ball inside the pocket and making quarterbacks earn it instead of giving up easy rush lanes. Those things that are the fundamentals of playing good defense, we weren’t on point early on. We were much better on Saturday. When we leveraged the ball and when we did our job, we made it difficult for Mississippi State. We are going to have to do the same against Arkansas.”LSU HC Brian Kelly on containing KJ Jefferson in the run game
Jefferson is certainly capable of becoming a big X factor for the Razorbacks, but the LSU pass rush that accounted for four sacks and four quarterback hurries against Mississippi State are looking to feast after Jefferson was sacked three times and fumbled twice in a 38-31 loss to BYU. With Harold Perkins back to making plays on the outside with four tackles, one sack, and one pass breakup against Mississippi State, it has allowed guys like Maason Smith, Mekhi Wingo, Saivion Jones, and Bradyn Swinson to have a big impact with their pass rush. After a slow start to the season, the front seven is starting to flex their muscles after dominating the Bulldogs’ offensive line last week.
“We have made a lot of progress going from Week 1 to where we are now. We’ve had some bumps and bruises along the road, but the defensive line is starting to put it together now.”LSU DE Saivion Jones on Defensive Line’s confidence heading into the matchup
Heading into the game, there is a good chance that Whit Weeks could be making his second straight start after Omar Speights has been listed as doubtful for tomorrow’s game. Weeks flashed onto the scene in his first career start by leading the team in tackles with eight plus a quarterback hurry.
Along with Weeks, Greg Penn III will also be in the starting rotation and will be involved to stop Jefferson and company.
“I think the whole linebacker room has gotten better. We have great depth right now, great versatility. A lot of guys can do everything different. Obviously guys like Whit and West, those are great players. We have a great room right now. Perk (Harold Perkins) plays everything. We are on the climb and on the rise.”LSU LB Greg Penn III on depth and versatility of the linebacker room
Penn, Weeks, and company will be preparing for a running game that could feature two of the SEC’s best in the backfield with not only KJ Jefferson, but also Rocket Sanders, who entered the season as one of the best backs in the SEC. After suffering a knee injury in the season opener against Western Carolina, the 2nd Team Preseason All-American has yet to return back since the injury. Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman gave an update to his status and if he would be able to return.
“I don’t have an update on Rocket Sanders. He ran well yesterday. He’s progressing faster than I thought he would. Don’t know if he will play Saturday.”Arkansas Head Coach Sam Pittman on Rocket Sanders
Whether or not Sanders will play is up in the air, but the Tigers’ defensive front is going to be focused on stopping the run as his backup AJ Green had 28 carries for 190 yards and two scores while averaging 6.8 yards per carry. When the Razorbacks have to throw the ball, Jefferson will look to his top receiver Andrew Armstrong for the big play as he has 18 catches for 197 yards and three touchdowns.
The Razorbacks will look to play keep away from an explosive LSU offense that leads the SEC in total offense (537 yards per game) and is number two in scoring (45.7). The Tigers’ offense is also top three in passing yards and rushing yards in the SEC.
The Tigers’ passing game is clicking on all cylinders after a historic efficient passing day from Jayden Daniels, who had an LSU single game record (88%) completing 30 of 34 passes for 367 yards and two touchdowns while also rushing for 64 yards and two touchdowns.
Daniels has made tremendous strides as a passer from last season as he has completed 70-of-95 passes for 976 yards, 8 TDs and 1 interception so far in 2023. He’s No. 1 in the SEC in total offense (377.0), passing yards per game (325.3), and No. 2 in total TDs (12).
Daniels is not the only offensive player to post big time numbers, but his number one receiver Malik Nabers is coming off a career best game with 13 catches for 239 yards and 2 TDs, and has established himself as one of the top receivers in the country with 24 catches for 393 yards.
As efficient and explosive as the Tigers’ passing game has been, the running game for LSU has been just as impressive with Logan Diggs leading the way at 156 yards and a touchdown. Josh Williams, Noah Cain, Tre Bradford, and freshman sensation Kaleb Jackson all have a rushing touchdown so far this season. The rushing game will go up against a stingy Arkansas run defense led by former LSU defensive end Landon Jackson and linebacker Jaheim Thomas that has given up only 1.7 yards per carry.
“They weren’t really extra aggressive. They just played their gaps well. They got up the field and penetrated well. It wasn’t a chippy game. they did their assignments very, very well.”LSU Center Charles Turner
“Their front seven is really good. They have a really good defensive end and they have a good secondary too. They play a lot of man to man. We are going to use that to our advantage in the skill set that we have in our receiver room. They are going to challenge us and we are going to embrace the challenge. Our offensive line knows their defensive front is good so we are taking that personal. Everybody wants to go out there and prove a point.”LSU RB Logan Diggs
Meanwhile, LSU’s secondary will be playing inspired for their senior leader and teammate Greg Brooks, who was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. Brooks’ teammates in the backend of the defense are coming off their best performance of the season by only holding the Bulldogs to only 207 passing yards. The secondary will look to build on that success at home against Arkansas.
The #12 LSU Tigers come into the game as 17.5 point favorites against Arkansas, but Brian Kelly knows the team should be ready for a Razorbacks team that is desperate to have a good showing after blowing two 10 point leads against BYU last Saturday.
Keys to the Game:
- Be disciplined in pass rushing lanes against KJ Jefferson
- Be balanced and stay ahead of the chains on 1st down.
- Continue to take advantage of mismatches one on one coverage
Final Score Prediction: LSU 40 Arkansas 20