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An Early Look at LSU Football's Matchup With Arkansas

Tigers face another difficult challenge with three win Razorbacks team

It wasn't all that long ago that Feleipe Franks was a highly coveted quarterback recruit for the purple and gold. After initially being committed to the Tigers as one of the top quarterback prospects in the country, Franks ultimately adjusted course and went to Florida. 

Now, the senior quarterback is coming off a gruesome leg injury and orchestrating an Arkansas offense program that has been one of the surprises of the SEC this season. On its surface, the Razorbacks 3-4 record is not much to ride home about but considering where this team was just two years ago it's been a phenomenal turnaround. In 2018 the record was 2-10, including a winless SEC slate and the same goes for 2019. 

In fact until this season, Arkansas' last conference win came against Ole Miss on Oct. 28, 2017. 

Yet in 2020, under first-year head coach Sam Pittman, the Arkansas program is starting to find its footing with wins over Mississippi State, Ole Miss and Tennessee. Franks has been a big part of that success on the offensive end, tossing for 1,678 yards, 16 touchdowns and three interceptions while completing 68% of his passes.

Offensively, the Razorbacks have been middle of the pack in both the run and passing attack, averaging 240 yards through the air and 148 on the ground per game. The defense is coming off its worst showing of the season without Pittman, surrendering 63 points to an extremely explosive Florida offense in Franks' return to Gainesville. 

Arkansas, while undergoing its struggles against the Gators on Saturday, has overall impressed in the first seven weeks of the season, leading the conference in tackles with 591. Playmakers is the name of the game for the Razorbacks, recording a conference leading 13 interceptions, three of which have been returned for touchdowns, has been the staple of their defense. 

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In fact through seven weeks, four different members of the Arkansas defense have taken home Defensive Player of the Week honors (Bumper Pool, Joe Foucha, Grant Morgan, Jalen Catalon). 

LSU will be in a precarious position of trying to not only prepare for this weekend's matchup but also trying to get its players back into playing shape. A COVID-19 spike forced the Tigers to postpone its matchup with Alabama on Nov. 14 but the expectation is that most of those quarantined players will be back at practice starting this week. 

It'll be interesting to see just what kind of shape these players are in and how much the program can actually improve with missing a good chunk of its players over the bye week, a time when the team was hoping to find some answers as to what went wrong during the Auburn game. 

At the beginning of the season, penciling in the Arkansas game as a favorable matchup for the Tigers was an automatic move. But this is no pushover team and the LSU players and staff will need to find some answers if it hopes to not drop a second straight game for the first time in coach Ed Orgeron's tenure in Baton Rouge. 

Orgeron offered up his early take on how the Razorbacks were playing, saying that he's been very impressed with the coaching staff in the program's turnaround this season.

"Very well coached football team," Orgeron said. "I think coach Pittman has done a tremendous job, Kendal Briles has done a tremendous job with the offense and the defense is playing great football. They did a tremendous job of scheming people and I think this coaching staff has proven that this team has gotten better through great coaching."