Spot in SEC title tilt up for grabs, as Arkansas visits LSUNov 23, 2011 - 10:21 PM Baton Rouge, LA (Sports Network) - Two of the top three teams in the current BCS rankings will square off in Baton Rouge this Friday, as the third-ranked Arkansas Razorbacks come calling on the top-ranked LSU Tigers. The winner will represent the Western Division in next week's SEC Championship Game against Eastern Division champion Georgia.
Arkansas is 10-1 on the year, 6-1 in conference, and coach Bobby Petrino's club has won seven in a row since suffering its lone defeat, a 38-14 setback at Alabama on September 24. The Razorbacks, who are playing this game with a heavy heart following the tragic passing of redshirt freshman TE Garrett Uekman, took out Mississippi State last Saturday, 44-17, and they have scored at least 42 points in each of their past three outings. This bout with LSU marks the fourth top-five matchup in school history, and the first since 1970. UA is 4-13 all-time when facing the top-ranked team in the land, and ironically its last win over the No. 1 team occurred against LSU (50-48) in Baton Rouge on November 23, 2007.
No AP No. 1 has lost on its home field since the aforementioned game between these two teams back in '07, and LSU is hoping that history doesn't repeat itself. The Tigers, who whipped Ole Miss 52-3 last Saturday, are undefeated at 11-0 (only the second time that's happened in school history), and they come into this clash seeking their first-ever 12-0 start. LSU has won 12 consecutive games dating back to last season, and has won its last 16 bouts at home. The game features the two highest ranked teams to play in Tiger Stadium since 1959 when No. 1 LSU beat No. 3 Ole Miss, 7-3. LSU is a stellar 21-3 all- time as the nation's top-ranked team, which includes a 9-1 mark under current head coach Les Miles. Arkansas is the seventh Top-25 team, and the third top- three squad, that the Tigers have faced this year.
LSU owns a 34-20-2 advantage in the all-time series with Arkansas, but games between the two have been close in recent years as two of the last four have gone to overtime, and four of the last six have been decided by three points or less.
Arkansas utilizes the pass about as well as any team in the country, as QB Tyler Wilson has completed 63.1 percent of his throws for 3,215 yards, 21 TDs and only five INTs. WR Jarius Wright has been his favorite target to this point, as he has 61 receptions for 1,002 yards and 10 scores. Four other players have at least 20 grabs, as Wilson has shown the ability to spread the wealth. As for the Razorback rushing attack, it has generated 25 TDs on the season, and Dennis Johnson is the top back with his 606 yards and three TDs.
The Arkansas defense, while performing very well of late, isn't anywhere close to being on the same level as that of LSU. Still, the Hogs have held three opponents to single digits and five foes to 17 points or fewer this season. Opponents are averaging 360.3 total ypg, and the Razorbacks have done a particularly good job defending the pass (196.1 ypg, 10 INTs). LB Jerry Franklin is the team's top tackler after 11 games, posting 87 stops, 10 of which have been behind the line of scrimmage, and S Tramain Thomas has four picks to go with his 73 tackles. The UA defense has been credited with 20 sacks, three of which belong to LB Alonzo Highsmith.
Wilson was highly productive in last week's rout of Mississippi State, completing 32-of-43 passes for 365 yards, three TDs and no INTs. TE Chris Gragg was the primary beneficiary of Wilson's exploits, as he hauled in eight balls for 119 yards and a score, and Wright was hot on his heels with eight catches for 96 yards. Johnson led the UA ground attack with 98 yards on 14 carries. Conversely, the Bulldogs managed just 211 total yards (84 rushing, 127 passing), lost the time of possession battle by more than 10 minutes, and picked up only 13 first downs.
Coach Petrino was obviously pleased with the outcome of the MSU game, and knows his team will need to maintain that level of intensity this week against the Tigers, "I'm very proud of our team. We did well in our preparation and executed well in all three phases of the game. Our defense played extremely well and on offense it was fun to drive the ball down the field. I'm happy with our performance and now it?s time to get ready for Friday."
LSU QBs Jarrett Lee and Jordan Jefferson have combined to complete 63 percent of their passes for 1,752 yards, 18 TDs and only three INTs. A trio of sophomores lead the Tigers in rushing, as Spencer Ware (650 yards, seven TDs), Michael Ford (625 yards, seven TDs) and Alfred Blue (445 yards, six TDs) help LSU average 209.5 ypg on the ground. The rushing attack has accounted for 29 TDs, and the team has another 19 passing scores to its credit. Rueben Randle (39 receptions, 755 yards, eight TDs) and Odell Beckham, Jr. (33 receptions, 410 yards, two TDs) lead the receiving corps. The offensive line has given up just 10 sacks.
There aren't many teams in the country better on the defensive side of the ball than LSU, which allows a paltry 10.0 ppg on typical outputs of 89.6 ypg rushing and 158.3 ypg passing. LSU has permitted just four TDs in its seven SEC games, and the Tigers have held their first seven conference opponents to a combined 50 points -- the lowest yield for the program since surrendering a mere 25 points to league foes back in 1962. S Brandon Taylor leads the Tigers with 61 tackles, while fellow S Eric Reid and CB Tyrann Mathieu follow with 58. CB Morris Claiborne is tops with four INTs. LSU has scored six TDs either on defense or special teams, which is only five fewer than the team has allowed to the opposition all year.
The Tigers rolled up 458 yards of total offense compared to only 195 for Ole Miss in last week's beat down, as the rushing attack was once again at the forefront with five different players churning out at least 50 yards, and the unit scoring four times on the ground. From a defensive standpoint, LSU allowed just 47 passing yards, logged three sacks and came away with three turnovers, one of which was a 46-yard INT return for a TD by CB Ron Brooks early in the first quarter.
Despite all the success his team has had this year, coach Miles knows his guys are in for a real dogfight this week, "I think it is a very competitive matchup and one that is close by the nature of the teams. It will be a very competitive game again this Friday."
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