LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly came to LSU not only to defeat the likes of Alabama and Nick Saban, but to win the one thing that has eluded him his entire college coaching career, which is a national championship. In order for his team to be in the talk of a potential SEC Championship appearance and a College Football Playoff berth, he and his Tigers must take on the next challenge for this program, which is to take on the role of being the hunted and not the hunter.
This challenge will come as early as tomorrow with the number seven ranked LSU Tigers going on the road to face off against an Arkansas team that is coming off a loss to Liberty last Saturday.
LSU played the hunter role in both of the team’s top ten upset wins over Ole Miss and Alabama to set the stage for the Tigers having control of the SEC West. The Tigers can even clinch the SEC West as early as Saturday with not only an Arkansas win, but also an Alabama win over Ole Miss. It is very possible that the SEC West title could happen as early as Saturday for the Tigers, but the Tigers will need to focus on playing the Arkansas Razorbacks that would love nothing more than to play spoiler.
LSU is coming off their best performance in the biggest game of the season with control of the SEC West on the line against the Alabama Crimson Tide winning 32-31 in overtime off of a game clinching two point conversion attempt that will forever live in LSU Football lore.
Despite all of the emotions of having a victory like that in Tiger Stadium, Coach Kelly believes that his team will be prepared and ready mentally when taking on Arkansas Saturday morning at 11:00 A.M.
“I guess. I mean, I guess that’s what they call it. I’ve never bought into that because I think if it’s a trap game, you have not done a very good job with your football team.”
“In January and February, for example, January, February, March, we did not train indoors. We trained outdoors so weather is not going to be a factor. We’ve been outside in 50 degree, 40 degree weather.
“They know that Arkansas is an SEC opponent that beat them last year. So, look, your thoughts affect your actions, that affect your physiological response. We’ve been working on how we think since day one. It becomes a trap game if you’re not thinking right, and we’ll get our guys thinking the right way, and we’ll prepare the right way.”
“This is about a consistency. If they want to be a consistent program, they’ll think the right way about this game.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on if Arkansas is a trap game
The Tigers have plenty of reasons to be motivated to play on Saturday. For starters, the team could clinch the SEC West with a win. Then, there is also the fact that there are players that have represented both sides of the rivalry.
For LSU, starting defensive backs Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks were both multi-year veterans playing at Arkansas before deciding to come back to their home states and representing the purple and gold after being on the opposite side of this rivalry.
“So certainly this will be a big thing for them going back to Fayetteville as transfers, but first and foremost, what was appealing to us as we were putting this back together was to have SEC experience and a connection with the state of Louisiana. Both of those guys filled that box and checked that box for us.”
“What it means to them is that they play for LSU, and they have such a pride in being from the state of Louisiana. They want The Golden Boot back.”
“As much as they’ll have friends and former players that they know, this will be much more about them wanting to win for LSU because that’s why they came back here.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on how Joe Foucha and Greg Brooks are approaching playing their former team.
The Tigers are not the only ones to pick up players from a rival school as the Arkansas Razorbacks have some players too that were former LSU Tigers in Dwight McGlothern and Landon Jackson. McGlothern has become a great addition for this team as quarterbacks have completed less than 50% of their passes when targeting him and he also has three interceptions on the season and six pass breakups.
The third reason why the Tigers will be motivated to play tomorrow is because the team still remembers its loss to the Razorbacks last year 16-13 in overtime. Still, this rivalry has shown in years past that it does not matter who the favorite coming to this game is, it is still going always going to be a battle for the Golden Boot Trophy.
Right now, both teams are trending in the opposite directions.
As mentioned before, the LSU Tigers are one of the hottest teams in the country winning their last three games against Florida, Ole Miss, and Alabama with a chance to clinch the SEC West after starting the season losing to Florida State, winning a tight one against Auburn, and losing in a blowout at home against Tennessee. After the Tennessee loss, things began to change for the better.
A key catalyst to this hot LSU team has been the play of its quarterback Jayden Daniels, who has been playing some of the best football for any quarterback in the last four weeks. In the team’s three game winning streak, Daniels has completed 71% of his passes for 779 yards and seven touchdowns while rushing for 260 more yards and seven more touchdowns. Daniels is only the fourth Power Five quarterback ever with seven or more touchdown passes and seven or more touchdown runs in a three game span joining Jalen Hurts, Lamar Jackson, and Tim Tebow.
The way the former Arizona State quarterback is playing has elevated his stock and has put himself even in the conversation for the Heisman Trophy. Daniels has had some help too from some new faces.
The Tigers’ freshman class is quickly showing why it may have been the best in the country as four freshmen are making an instant impact this season. Offensively, three guys come to mind with two of them protecting Daniels’ blindside. Left tackle Will Campbell and right tackle Emery Jones are both freshmen, but are playing like some of the top offensive linemen in the country.
“It’s not just those five guys, but clearly the biggest concern we had was their two end pass rushers. You’ve got to give credit to the two freshmen. Emery and Will just do an incredible job play in and play out focus and refocusing, letting the play go and coming back to the next play and just with all-out effort. Sustained all-out effort.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Emery Jones’ performance against Alabama
The third is tight end Mason Taylor, who is coming off a heroic performance catching a late game touchdown pass in the fourth quarter and the game winning two point conversion to defeat Alabama 32-31. Kelly has been praising the talents of the freshman tight end and now, it shows after his SEC Freshman of the Week performance.
“So there’s been growth physically and mentally. He is a freshman. As you know, freshmen are growing physically, and the first big thing is he has put on over 20 pounds physically and growing into his body.
I think the growth from a mental standpoint has been the knowledge of the game. You know, he has been really good. I would be remiss to not point out the fact that he has been put in a very difficult position where a tight end has to do a lot.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Mason Taylor’s growth
The fourth freshman perhaps may have been the best player on the field this past Saturday night and he came from the defensive side of the football in linebacker Harold Perkins. Working as a spy against Alabama quarterback Bryce Young, the defending Heisman Trophy winner saw plenty of number 40 all night long as the rising star defender for the Tigers had eight tackles, a pass breakup, three quarterback hurries, and a sack in the win earning him SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
“I think, quite honestly, he has the makeup to do that. He is a mature kid. I was talking to a couple of our coaches about him. He is a bit of a throwback, and a throwback in this sense. Just tell me what I need to do. I don’t need all the other things. And I’ll figure it out as I go.”
“It’s kind of refreshing. He doesn’t need to know all the whys. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t give the whys to our guys, and that’s part of coaching today. You’ve got explain a lot of things.”
He doesn’t need a lot of the whys. Just point me in the right direction; I’ll figure it out. That’s Harold Perkins. He knows he is not perfect, but he makes up for a lot of those things with his athletic ability.”
“I think that Matt has done a great job of kind of meeting him halfway with some of the things that he is not ready to do, but leaning heavily on some of the things that he has that are innate traits that can come in and help us win right away and I think part of it is he is a bit of a throwback in that you don’t have to explain everything. Just line up here, do this, and you’ll be fine.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Harold Perkins’ rise to stardom as a freshman
It is not just the freshmen that are coming off great performances against Alabama, but some of the more veteran players have also played their part. Josh Williams continues to be one of the best stories for this LSU football team as the former walk-on had 54 yards rushing and a touchdown in the Alabama victory, but it was what he did picking up tough yardage to extend drives and as a blocker that made the difference for the Tigers’ offense.
Defensively, Jarrick Bernard Converse set the tone early intercepting Bryce Young on the first drive of the Alabama game while also allowing only two catches and having two pass breakups. BJ Ojulari showed why he is one of the best defensive players in the country by leading the team last week in tackles with 11 to go along with numerous quarterback hurries.
After a disastrous start, the special teams is starting to play much better as Gregory Clayton has brought a lot of stability to the position. Jay Bramblett has also proven to be one of the best punters in the SEC averaging close to 45 yards per punt while Damian Ramos has been consistent making six of his nine field goal attempts.
Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman has tons of respect and appreciation on how the Tigers were able to turn around their season.
“They’re really good, their quarterback Daniels makes them go, they’ve got a big, physical offensive line, coach Davis is doing a really good job up there. They’re playing some young kids, they’ve got a couple of freshmen at tackles that are good players.”
“Boutte and that group of wideouts is really good. They’ve got a young freshman tight end that’s really good, three backs that play a lot. They’re all good players, but they’re a physical, downhill, running offense that if they want to get the ball outside, Daniels is the guys that’s gonna get it outside and he’s hard to bring down, but he can throw it too and I think they ran the ball 20 times on Alabama and the rest of them were all passes.”
“Defensively very very good on the interior, very good. Mekhi Wingo and Jaquelin Roy, they’re really good down there and if you get into the pass game 18 and 11, Ali Gaye, they’re both long, have got speed.”
“And of course they have Joe and Brooks playing safeties for them and they’ve been playing really well. They’ve got a young freshman, Perkins that plays out in a Sam and nickel type situation, Sam backer, and he’s really a talented young guy too. They have a lot of speed, they’re LSU, they’ve got a lot of talent and they’re big, they’re playing really well right now.”Arkansas Head Coach Sam Pittman on LSU
Meanwhile, Arkansas comes in with a 5-4 record trying to make it to bowl eligibility. After starting the 3-0 and as a top ten team in the country, it has been a rough couple of games for a team that entered the year with a lot of high expectations. After the 3-0 start, the Razorbacks have lost four of its last six games during its span with the two wins coming against BYU and Auburn. In this six game slump, Arkansas has lost games to Texas A&M, Alabama, Mississippi State, and Liberty. Head Coach Sam Pittman is looking to put an end to this streak by getting their biggest victory of the season on Saturday.
Although the team has struggled over this stretch, LSU head coach Brian Kelly is not buying in the struggles.
“Obviously playing a team that has a very prolific offense and in terms of players, it starts with their quarterback. I think it’s the fifth time now we’ve seen a big physical quarterback. KJ Jefferson, 6’3″, 240. He has 17 passing touchdowns, six rushing touchdowns. He is going to be a handful. Another guy that we’ve got to be able to control what he does and get him on the ground.
“Raheim Sanders, the running back, probably the biggest back that we’ll see. 6’2″, 227. Leads the SEC in rushing. Has over 1,000 yards.”
So that one-two combination with arguably the best center in all of college football in Ricky Stromberg, a very good scheme, accomplished SEC wide receivers. This is a really good offense that we’re going to have to slow down and Sam Pittman, I have a great deal of respect for him. A very good football coach. He’ll have his football team ready to go.”
“Drew Sanders on defense leads the SEC in sacks with 7-and-a-half sacks. Really good football player. They do a lot of really good things with him. He plays inside, but they move him to an outside position where he can come off the edge. We’ll have to be able to account for him.”
“Got a couple of former LSU players in their starting defense. Landon Jackson, Dwight McGlothern. Good football players that obviously are playing well for them and their special teams is really good. They do a lot of different things that we’ll have to be alert for, be on top of, and make sure that we do a really good job. We’re trending better there. We’re going to have to continue to do a really good job.”
“We’ve got an 11:00 a.m. kickoff so all those things we’re used to it. We’ve played early, but we have to obviously be able to focus on our next opponent, which I’m certain we’ll be able to do that with the kind of quality SEC opponent we have in Arkansas.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on Arkansas
A big question mark for the Razorbacks is the status of their star quarterback KJ Jefferson, who is continuing to battle a shoulder injury. A lot of the Razorbacks’ offense runs through the 6’3, 242 pound signal caller as he has completed 66% of his passes for 1,981 yards and 17 touchdowns while rushing for 425 yards and six touchdowns. Coach Pittman says that Jefferson’s playing status is fluid and is confident in backup Malik Hornsby if Jefferson was not to play. However, Coach Kelly believes that the Razorbacks’ big dual threat quarterback will play and based on the big quarterbacks the Tigers have played this season, defensive coordinator Matt House and the defense will be ready.
“Yeah, each one of them has been a little bit different. I was just jotting down. We’ve had five of the guys that have been real big. Even Jaxson Dart was a big kid too.”
“It just seems like every quarterback that we’ve run into this year has been a big, physical quarterback. So, yeah, again, he is a guy that they want to run, throw. He is going to be actively involved in the run game. They’re not afraid to run him at any time. We’ve seen him take off at the 5 yard line in the air. He is a physical player. Again, we’re going to have to do a really good job of containing him.”LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly on KJ Jefferson
The biggest strength of the Razorbacks’ offense is that they can run the football averaging 233 yards on the ground per game. Raheim Sanders already has over 1,000 yards rushing and seven touchdowns. When Jefferson or Hornsby need to throw the football, there are three receivers that stick out. Oklahoma transfer Jadon Haselwood leads the team with 44 catches for 553 yards and three touchdowns. Matt Landers averages over 17 yards per touch with 35 catches for 594 yards and three touchdowns. Then, finally, there is Trey Knox, who leads the team in touchdown catches with five.
Defensively, the Razorbacks have one of the best players in the conference in linebacker Drew Sanders. The former Alabama linebacker has made an instant impact for the Razorbacks leading the SEC in sacks with eight. Bumper Pool is a great linebacker too as he is the program’s all-time leading tackler rounding up one of the best linebacking cores in the SEC. At defensive end, Jordan Domineck also causes some problems as a pass rusher with 6.5 sacks this season.
On special teams, Cam Little returns as the team’s kicker after he won the game for the Razorbacks in overtime 16-13 last season. He is having a great statistical season for the Razorbacks converting on nine of his 11 field goal attempts.
The weather will play a role in the game as it will be the coldest game the Tigers will play this season with temperatures being in the 40s.
The Last Word:
LSU LB Micah Baskerville:
LSU Safety Major Burns:
LSU RB Josh Williams:
LSU WR Jaray Jenkins:
LSU Head Coach Brian Kelly:
Keys To The Game:
- Force the Razorbacks to be one dimensional throwing the football.
- Account for Drew Sanders and prevent him from wrecking your game plan offensively.
- Attack throwing the ball downfield against Arkansas’ secondary.
- Do not let the weather affect you.
- Be ready to play from the opening kickoff.
Score Prediction: LSU 31 Arkansas 20
There is a lot of talk about a trap game, but LSU will be ready to play knowing what is on the line. I trust Brian Kelly to get this team ready to play on the road against Arkansas after being on an incredible high in the win against Alabama. Jayden Daniels will take advantage of a Razorbacks secondary that has struggled this season, and whether or not, KJ Jefferson or Malik Hornsby gets the start, LSU’s defense will make it a priority to make sure that the running game doesn’t hurt them.
Check out this week’s episode of The Chase With Jace as myself and former Tigers quarterback Marcus Randall recaps the Tigers’ historic win over the Tide while looking ahead to the game against Arkansas.