It's GameDay: LSU Faces Final Test at Arkansas

Les Miles and the Tigers go for win No. 11, and a lot more.
Les Miles and the Tigers go for win No. 11, and a lot more.
Steve Franz
Michael Bonnette (@LSUBonnette)
Michael Bonnette (@LSUBonnette)
Assoc. Athletic Director/Communications

BATON ROUGE - The top passing offense in the Southeastern Conference will face the top defense in the league on Saturday when fifth-ranked LSU travels to Little Rock to face Ryan Mallett and 12th-ranked Arkansas at War Memorial Stadium.

Kickoff between the Tigers and the Razorbacks is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. and the game will be televised nationally on CBS. The game will also be broadcast on the LSU Sports Radio Network and in the Geaux Zone on www.LSUsports.net/live.

One thing is for certain and that's when LSU and Arkansas square off, it's usually a game that comes down to the wire. The last five games between the teams have been decided by a total of 13 points with two of the games going into overtime, including last year's 33-30 LSU victory in Tiger Stadium.

LSU brings a 10-1 overall mark and a 6-1 league record into the contest. The Tigers are coming off a 43-36 win over Ole Miss last week in Tiger Stadium. LSU, which has a nation's best four wins over Top 25 teams this year, will be after only the second 11-win regular season in school history. LSU won 11 games during the 2003 regular season on its way to going 13-1 and claiming the BCS National Championship.

Arkansas, winners of five straight games, is 9-2 overall and 5-2 in conference action. The Razorbacks are coming off a 38-31 double-overtime win over Mississippi State last week.

A win over Arkansas will put the Tigers in line for an at-large berth into one of the BCS bowls as LSU will remain as one of the top five teams in the nation. 

"This Arkansas team is very talented," LSU coach Les Miles said. "I think they are much better than the 12th-ranked team in the country. Their only two losses are two Alabama and Auburn and they scored 43 points against Auburn and lost by only four to Alabama.

"When you look at Arkansas the first thing that jumps out at you is just how talented they are on offense. Ryan Mallett is outstanding a quarterback and they complement their passing game with a very good running game led by Knile Davis. This will certainly be a tremendous challenge for our defense. I'm looking forward to seeing how we matchup with them."

Against the Hogs, the Tigers will face an offense that is led by arguably the top pro prospect quarterback in college football in Mallett. Mallett, a junior who is his second year with the Razorbacks after transferring from Michigan, leads the SEC with 297 passing yards per game. He's completed 67 percent of his passes and he's thrown 29 touchdown passes compared to just nine interceptions.

Mallett has completed passes to 16 different players and six Razorbacks have at least 27 catches with tight end D.J. Williams leading the way with 46 catches for 561 yards and four scores. The Hogs will be without their top wide receiver Greg Childs (46 catches, 659 yards, 6 TDs), who will miss his fourth straight game after suffering a season-ending injury against Vanderbilt on Oct. 30.

When the Hogs aren't throwing the ball, they turn to Davis, who ranks third in the SEC with 1,031 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns.

The Tigers will counter the Arkansas offense, which is averaging 38 points and 491 total yards per game, with a defense that ranks first in the SEC in total defense (286.9 yards) and pass defense (151.8 yards). The Tigers 14 interceptions rank as the fourth-highest total in the league.

Individually, the Tigers will rely on defensive tackle Drake Nevis and linebacker Kelvin Sheppard to put pressure on Mallett. Nevis leads the Tigers with 12.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks, while Sheppard is third in the conference with 98 tackles.

Nevis and Peterson will get support in the secondary from junior Patrick Peterson, who is one of three finalist for the Thorpe Award, which goes to the top defensive back in college football. Peterson has 33 tackles, four interceptions and five pass breakups to his credit this year.

While the LSU defense will have its work cut out for them on Saturday in slowing down Arkansas, the Tigers will look to keep their late season offensive momentum going. LSU is coming off its best offensive day in nearly two years with 43 points and 470 total yards in the win over Ole Miss.

"They are very talented, "Miles said of the Razorback defense. "They are a big, physical group and they will get to the ball. I see a defense that has gotten better each week. We are going to have be smart with our approach. Obviously we have to continue to take care of the football and it's important that we stay ahead of the chains so we don't become predictable."

LSU's only turned the ball over one time on offense over its last 41 possessions, a streak that goes back to the first quarter of the Auburn. LSU has climbed all the way to fourth in the SEC in turnover margin at plus-6 for the season.

Last week, quarterback Jordan Jefferson played perhaps the most complete game of his career with 254 yards passing and one TD to go with 45 yards rushing and a score in the win over the Rebels. Jefferson was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for his effort.  Jefferson, who got his first career start in Little Rock two years ago in a 31-30 loss to the Hogs, has thrown for 1,069 yards and four TDs and added another 349 rushing yards and six TDs on the ground.

Steven Ridley continues to be one of the top running backs in the SEC, rating fourth in the league with 967 yards and 12 TDs. Last week, Ridley scored a career-best three TDs, including the game-winner, against Ole Miss. Ridley is just 33 yards from becoming the 13th 1,000-yard rusher in school history.

"We look forward to playing meaningful games in November, and that is right where we are at," Miles said. "Any time these two teams get together it always seems to be a very competitive and close ball game and we don't expect anything different this time around.

"Coach Petrino has done a great job there and we know that he's going to have his team ready to play. We've had a good week of preparation. It's going to take a four quarter effort on Saturday. I look forward to taking this team to Little Rock to battle Arkansas for the Boot."

LSU Notebook

A victory over Arkansas will give LSU 11 victories for the sixth time in school history with Les Miles having four of those to his credit.  It will also mark only the second time in school history that the Tigers have won 11 games during the regular-season (2003 other time).

The victory over Ole Miss gave Miles his fourth 10-win season at LSU. He joins Mark Richt, Steve Spurrier, and Philip Fulmer as the only coaches in SEC history to win 10 games in four of his first six seasons as an SEC head coach.

Les Miles has now won 61 games in his six years at LSU. Miles, who is averaging 10 wins a season as the Tiger head coach, is the fastest coach to 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 wins in school history. 

LSU is 4-1 vs. Top 25 teams this year and Les Miles is 22-12 vs. ranked opponents in his six years with the Tigers.

In 11 first possessions this year, LSU has also held its opponents to 9 punts and 2 turnovers.

LSU is 9-0 this year and 45-6 under Les Miles when scoring first. The last time LSU lost a game despite scoring first came against Alabama last year. 

Under Les Miles, LSU is 21-2 when having a 100-yard rusher and the Tigers are 34-0 (and 6-0 in 2010) when reaching the 100-yard rush mark as a team and holding the opponents to less than 100 rushing yards as a team.

 

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