The Arkansas Razorbacks’ signature win will be here in fewer than 24 hours. If you believe the Razorbacks are winners and embrace their success, then worry is unnecessary, and that goes for Fans and Players. Within a couple of weeks of four years ago, Bobby Petrino began moving the Razorbacks and coaxing fans to this point. Dispel all doubt in the face of Vegas estimating the Razorbacks as 14 point underdogs, or LSU being loaded with talented players, or the Game being in “Death Valley,” or LSU’s Defense being perceived as being vaunted, or Arkansas’ defense not being able to measure up.
We are ready. This Game IS the Razorbacks’ Game to Win NOW.
Call LSU’s players talented, because they are. Call their defense stout and fast, because it is. Acknowledge that they hold the No. 1 rank in the Nation, because they do. Recognize that they have won every game this year, because they’ve yet to lose. Give them every credit they deserve, but refuse to believe they are somehow better than the Razorbacks.
Would you trade Tyler Wilson or Brandon Mitchell for Jarrett Lee or Jordan Jefferson? What receiver on LSU’s team would you trade for Hamilton, Adams, Childs, Wright, or Wade or Herndon or Horton? Name one LSU tailback that you would trade for Dennis Johnson. Keiro Small couldn’t be bartered for whomever LSU lines up as a fullback. Name a defensive lineman you would trade for Jake Bequette, D.D. Jones or Tenarius Wright. Tramain Thomas couldn’t be traded for anyone in Baton Rouge. Alonzo Highsmith has improved to be among the best next to Jerry Franklin. Try to match the heart of anyone with Jericho Nelson and Ross Rasner.
Most important, would you trade Bobby Petrino for Les Miles?
If you aren’t biting, what doubt is there about an Arkansas victory?
LSU’s team is human and hardly extraordinary.
Despite beating Alabama, the Tide should have been up 12 or 16 to 3 at the half. Repeatedly during the game, Alabama completed short passes which will be passes Arkansas completes to Adams, Wright, Hamilton or Gragg. The difference in outcomes is that the Tide never allowed itself to drive down the field with that strategy. On two different occasions Alabama receivers beat LSU’s secondary only to have passes dropped. The Hogs can make long gains and move the ball down the field against LSU without question. Expect the following when LSU is on defense:
1. Once within the 20 yard line, LSU ranks 105th in Red Zone Defense, permitting scores in 17 of the 19 attempts.
2. LSU plays 4 down linemen typically but will occasionally play three. The linebackers alternately come up to fill the gaps or to act as standing defensive ends.
3. The LSU Defense stacks the box when the opposing offense is inside their own 20 or the LSU 20. A receiver will be open
4. If a pair of receivers, one on the line and one in the slot, LSU’s defensive backs mirror the receivers’ distance from the line which leaves a receiver screen or a quick pass to a back out of the backfield.
5. A spread formation with no back in the backfield and one tight end leaves the tight end open on a straight fly route.
6. LSU’s defensive backs play solid coverage but are not unbeatable.
The Bengal Tigers’ offense hardly confounds the mind. Regardless of the stance of the linemen, when you see trips right or left, whether lined up that way or by motion to that side by the slot back, the play is a pass. Trips are more frequently to the right side and only occasionally to the left. Against Alabama, when the linemen are in a standing stance, LSU never ran the ball. LSU’s offense huddled every play against Alabama and remained slow and methodical in that regard.
When Jarrett Lee is in the game, the formation is typically an offset I backfield with one tight end and two wide outs. The offset I has a full back in a three-point stance and a tailback behind. The other back lines up in the backfield slot, flanker, or whatever you want to call the position in the backfield outside the tackle and inside the wide receiver. LSU will run or pass with Jarrett Lee out of the offset I. Essentially running plays with Lee are deep handoffs or quick pitches to bookends Michael Ford or Spencer Ware, who pick their hole or dive straight ahead on standard runs. Neither occupy the backfield at the same time. Whenever Lee throws, most will be off of the play action pass, but when an LSU receiver executes a route out of the offset I, unless the Hogs are engaged in a heavy blitz, there should be two defenders waiting because no more than three receivers are headed out. LSU tight end Peterson has 15 catches on the year while all others have 10 among them. By comparison, Chris Gragg alone has 38 catches for 457 yards. On occasion Lee lines up in a spread-style, shotgun formation.
When Jordan Jefferson is in the game, he will run an old-style option out of the offset I with play action passes. It’s the same formation as with Lee. But there are a few close details with the offense when Jefferson’s in the game.
1. Jefferson may be capable of checking down receivers, but he is very prone to run if his initial receiver is covered.
2. Jefferson has tells. When he drops back with the intention of running, he holds the ball in an exaggerated position, like a bad actor. There are two variations. In one he raises the upper tip of the ball to the level of his mouth or above and immediately lowers the ball to tuck and run. In the other, the ball is more toward the center of his body as opposed to being pulled back more closely toward his right shoulder.
3. Jefferson’s accuracy goes way down when he throws on the run or without his feet set.
4. Jefferson’s option play is a double option with little indication that he turns it into a throwing option.
The reality is that LSU has a beatable defense and an offense that looks like it’s put together with spare parts that don’t quite fit together. LSU is undefeated because the Alabama offense did more to stop itself than the LSU defense did. ‘Bama should have won that game, but didn’t. When LSU played one defense ranked almost identically to Arkansas’, i.e. Mississippi State — Scoring Defense Rank 32, Total Defense 50 (Arkansas’ Scoring Defense is ranked 30th while the Hogs are 44th in Total Defense) the Tigers put up only 19 points despite holding the ball for more than 37 minutes. However, Oregon and West Virginia have defenses which are similar to the Razorbacks as well. What’s the difference? For Arkansas, turnovers are not an option, particularly ones that give up points. Oregon and West Virginia turned the ball over 4 times each. Mississippi State suffered only one interception.
Nineteen points won’t cut it against the Razorbacks whose worst offensive production outside of Alabama has been 29 points and which averages 39 points per game for the season.
The Tigers have not had to play all year from behind. However, LSU has all of the makings of an offense which will self-destruct when it has to come from behind.
The Razorbacks are ready and will win this game.