With Stout Pass Rush and Playmakers, LSU Football Offense Must Make Smart Decisions Against Arkansas

Razorbacks lead conference in interceptions, make consistent plays all over the field
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No question that LSU possesses more talent than the Arkansas defense. Despite that fact, being patient enough to exploit the Razorbacks will be the key for the Tigers against a defense that has made plays all year long.

The Arkansas defense presents a unique challenge to LSU and its freshman quarterback TJ Finley. Will the Tigers be patient enough to consistently move the football, or will the Arkansas’ defensive scheme frustrate the Tigers and force turnovers?

Look for a lot of post-snap changes when the Tigers attempt to throw the football. Show six coming and at the snap, drop three of those six and just rush three. Sounds like simple math, but it’s really more like calculus. That’s what LSU will face this weekend versus Arkansas.

Will those six be three linebackers and three defensive linemen? Safeties and linebackers with a zone-fire look as one of the defensive linemen drops into coverage?

Bottom line, Arkansas will absolutely throw the kitchen sink at LSU’s young quarterback. Defensive coordinator Barry Odom is a really good coach, and he will attempt to confuse the talented Finley. 

Coach Odom has a smart group of players that can execute a scheme that quite frankly many defensive personnel groups would turn into a Chinese fire drill. It’s complicated at times, and many college athletes can struggle with it. That’s why it’s going to be very interesting when the LSU offense hits the gridiron.

Make the freshman quarterback think when he’s sitting in the pocket. Over. And over. Do it again. Frustrate him once more.

Arkansas simply does not possess the talent to play cover one and man up with the LSU skill position players. It would be a fireworks show for the Tigers. Therefore, look for a plethora of different zone coverages all night long. That’s just the tip of the iceberg though.

There will be one consistent theme to watch when LSU travels to Fayetteville to take on Arkansas: which team will be more patient?

The reason to discuss this stems from Arkansas attempting to methodically slow down drives. The Razorbacks intercepted an incredible six passes versus Ole Miss and another three versus Mississippi State. Neither team handled the various defensive looks that Arkansas threw at them.

Against Mississippi State, Arkansas utilized three defensive linemen, two linebackers, and six defensive backs. Run it if you like, but we are taking away the pass. Mississippi State coach Mike Leach was too stubborn to consistently run the football. The Bulldogs lost 21-14.

The Arkansas defense wants its opponent to dink and dunk down the field, and run the ball. The more plays an opposing offense goes through during a drive, the more chances for turnovers and miscues. That’s not what LSU wants to do; the Tigers like to take vertical shots down the football field.

Be aggressive in the passing game. That’s LSU’s preference. It’s contrasting styles go against one another as Arkansas really does not give in all that often and its pass rush is one reason why.

On one hand, Arkansas only produced 12 sacks, with redshirt-freshman Eric Gregory leading the way with a mere two-and-a-half sacks. So, LSU can definitely provide time for starting quarterback TJ Finley. That’s just half the battle.

Do not be fooled. Arkansas will dare an opponent to throw the football. Sometimes Arkansas will provide plenty of time to throw the ball but the Razorbacks have collected 13 interceptions this season. That’s No. 1 in the NCAA.

For comparison, Alabama and Auburn each intercepted six passes this year, which is certainly good. Combined they are still one short of what Arkansas has produced. Further, Arkansas intercepted as many passes (six against Ole Miss) as either Alabama or Auburn in one game. It’s also all about the LSU offensive game plan.

LSU needs to hammer the football. Stick to that game plan and do not mess around. Come straight down hill at the Razorbacks who rank a woeful 85th in the nation by allowing 183.4 yards rushing per game. Even Florida and its pass-happy attack ran for 208-yards against the Razorbacks last Saturday.

Whether it’s first-and-ten or second-and-long, do not go away from the run game. Keep Finley in manageable situations come hell or high water. A punt is not the end of the world either. A pick-six, on the other hand, could be catastrophic. Throwing the football over and over is playing right into the Arkansas’ defensive game plan.

If LSU does not run the football at least 50% of the time, it’s probably not a good sign. Then again, if LSU establishes the run during the first quarter and forces Arkansas to begin to crowd the line of scrimmage, that’s when the LSU offense can begin to wear down the Arkansas defense.

It’s also when the Tigers will likely go over the top. With all of LSU’s weapons, Finley would thrive with basic single-high safety looks.

Patience with the running game must be a priority against a zone team like Arkansas, and that’s even more so the case with a freshman signal caller. Will the Tigers or Razorbacks be more patient with their respective styles of play? The team that sticks to their true self will likely win the game on Saturday.