No. 5 LSU Tigers (10-1, 5-5 ATS) at No. 12 Arkansas Razorbacks (9-2, 8-3 ATS)
Saturday November, 27th 3:30PM Eastern Donald W. Reynolds Stadium Fayetteville, A.R.
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Betting Odds:LSU +3.5/Arkansas -3.5
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While most of the SEC will be consumed with the Iron Bowl this weekend, there is a big match-up brewing down in Fayetteville that is not getting the credit it deserves. The no. 12 Arkansas Razorbacks have sported one of the top offenses in all of college football this year and are having an incredible season with a 9-2 overall record. The Razorbacks will host SEC West rivals in the no. 5 LSU Tigers this Saturday at Donald W. Reynolds Stadium where they have won 12 of their last 13 games. LSU is having a banner season at 10-1 with only a single loss to Auburn earlier in the year. LSU is actually still alive in the National Championship picture if they can get lucky and get some losses from Oregon and Auburn. However even if the Tigers do not get into the National Championship, they can still clinch an at-large spot in a BCS Bowl with a win over the Razorbacks this Saturday.
Interestingly enough this game will highlight one of the best offenses in the SEC against most likely the best defense in the conference as well. The Razorbacks are averaging just less than 500 total yards and 37 points per game on the season. However, they will line up against a Tigers defense that has been superb. Every year the SEC produces a defensive group that is simply amazing. Last year it was the Alabama defense that led them to a National Championship. This year that title goes to the LSU defense. The Tigers rank 5th overall on paper, but they may very well be the best in the nation. LSU is holding opponents to just 286 yards and 16 points per game. Therefore, it will be interesting to see which side of the ball prevails this Saturday between the Arkansas offense vs. the LSU defense.
Historically this rivalry has consistently produced some of the most exciting conclusions to the SEC season. Over the last 5 meetings, the outcome has been decided by just 13 points combined. That’s less than a field goal difference each game, not to mention the last 2 out of 3 games have went into overtime as well. This year another exciting game is expected with the Razorbacks opening as 4 point favorites possibly due to the game being held in Fayetteville. Another reason the Razorbacks may be favored in this game is because LSU really struggled last week against Ole Miss. Though the Tigers won 43-36, their potent defense had trouble stopping the Rebels offense which is definitely not good news for LSU fans considering Arkansas is equipped with even more weapons this Saturday.
The biggest weapon the Razorbacks have stands in the 6’6 frame of QB Ryan Mallett. Mallett has put up stellar numbers throwing the football this year completing 67% for 3,272 yards, 27 touchdowns, and 9 picks. Mallett does such a good job of spreading the ball around and delivering pinpoint accuracy that it is extremely difficult to defend. Leading receiver Greg Childs was lost for the season just a few weeks ago, but wide outs Jarius Wright and Joe Adams still give the passing offense plenty of weapons on the outside. Both Wright and Adams have caught over 600 receiving yards this season while averaging 18 yards per catch. It will be interesting to see what type of success the Arkansas offense has throwing the football against an LSU secondary that ranks 4th against the pass holding teams to just 151 yards per game through the air.
However even if the LSU defense brings their “A” game to the table, they still have to find ways to score which has been difficult at times this season. Running back Stevan Ridley has been the backbone of the offense carrying the ball over 200 times for 967 yards on the season. Ridley is very close to reaching the 1,000 yard barrier on the season and he has produced 12 touchdowns on the ground this season as well. Ridley will get plenty of touches this Saturday not only because he is the most consistent option for the offense, but also because the more the Tigers can run the football the more time they can keep the Arkansas offense off the field.
QB Jordan Jefferson has not had a big season throwing the football, but did put together a big performance in the win over Ole Miss last week. Jefferson completed 13 of 17 passing for 254 yards while rushing for an additional 45 yards. Jefferson has had an up and down season throwing the football. If that continues to happen, do not be surprised if QB Jarrett Lee gets a few snaps behind center as well. Lee may be the better pure passer, but Jefferson can also run the football which seems to be more effective. Still, the Razorbacks have had tough time against the pass on occasions this year. Therefore, if either quarterback can get the ball in the hands of Rueben Randle or Terrence Toliver down the field it will greatly increase their chances of keeping the Razorbacks defense off the line of scrimmage.
Jay’s pick to cover the spread:
The mad hatter has burned me on several occasions this year. While LSU does not appear to be dominant, somehow they find ways to win. Therefore, I will not take the side here since I really like the Arkansas Razorbacks to win the game. I will stay away in fear of Coach Les Miles performing more magic. However, I do believe the total will be overvalued due to both opponents’ high scoring games last week. I would make a strong consideration on the under here as I expect this to be much more defensive sided that most would predict.