Tiger Predictions: LSU Handles Business Against Arkansas to Lock up SEC West
After LSU's 21-point SEC road victory over Ole Miss last weekend, the player's were not happy with their performance. In fact the only one in the locker room who seemed positive was coach Ed Orgeron.
The players were disappointed because they felt they had only played 30 minutes of a 60 minute game. After dominating the first half 31-7, the team was outscored 31-27 in the second half as both the offense and defense struggled for much of the half.
That's what the Tigers are looking for this week against Arkansas, a complete 60-minute effort that the players feel they haven't been able to accomplish once this season. With two games remaining in the regular season, LSU wants to finish on the right note. It starts this weekend when the 2-8 Razorbacks come to Death Valley Saturday night.
Score Prediction: LSU 56, Arkansas 13
Since posting its lowest point total of the season against Auburn (23), the LSU offense has been on some kind of a roll, dropping 46 points in Tuscaloosa and following that up with 58 points in Oxford.
The Arkansas defense on the other hand, is two weeks removed from allowing Western Kentucky to score 45 points in a loss and 54 points to a Mississippi State offense that could only muster 13 points against the LSU defense.
Needless to say, this game could and should get out of hand rather quickly. LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is 313 yards shy from becoming the first quarterback to ever throw for 4,000 yards in a season which could be accomplished this weekend.
The Arkansas defense is allowing 221 passing yards per game which is barely in the top-60 of college football. The area that really kills the Razorback defense comes through the ground game as they are allowing 225 yards rushing per outing as well.
That spells good fortune for junior running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire who is gashing up defenses left and right to finish the season. In four of the last five games, Edwards-Helaire has rushed for at least 100 yards with a touchdown. His five touchdowns over the last three weeks alone has him sitting atop the SEC in rushing touchdowns (12) so it would be surprising if he didn't add one or two more this weekend.
A lot of the talk this week has been about the dominance shown by the offensive line, which Orgeron and Burrow have called the most improved unit on the team in 2019. The depth and leadership shown by this veteran group has helped lead the charge when it always wasn't there a season ago.
"They're very essential, we knew when we were going into camp we needed to improve on the offensive line," Orgeron said Thursday. "I believe they're the most improved group and as they go we go. If we can't protect Joe, we can't get the ball down the field so I think they're very instrumental in what we're doing."
There's no reason why the starters shouldn't put away Arkansas early, allowing some of the younger players to get some meaningful playing time in the second half.
This week on defense will be about trying to get the bad taste the last few weeks have left in the player's mouths. After the Alabama offense, led by Tua Tagovailoa was able to explode in the second-half and make it a game, LSU was hoping to correct many of those problems against Ole Miss.
That never happened as the Rebels gashed the Tigers for 31 second-half points that the players said had nothing really to do with the schemes, but rather fundamentals like taking wrong angles and missing tackles.
Junior safety JaCoby Stevens was so upset with the effort, he could be seen passionately yelling at his teammates on the sidelines trying to get them to wake up in the middle of the third quarter.
"I was embarrassed for the LSU defense," Stevens said Monday. "We didn't put out a great representation of how we practice and how we play. Coach O and coach Aranda are always going to put it on themselves but at the end of the day it's us. At the end of the day the players have to make the plays. Regardless of the call, of the situation, we're the players out on the field and we have to make the plays."
The Razorback offense is nothing special in either the pass or run game on offense, ranking No. 11 in the SEC in both categories. The Tigers will have to keep tabs on running back Rakeem Boyd, who is one of three SEC running backs to rush for over 1,000 yards in 2019, averaging 6.7 yards per carry.
With that being said, the LSU defense is in store for a bounce-back outing, even if junior safety Grant Delpit doesn't play, which Orgeron said Thursday the team is leaning towards. The bottom line is the Tigers are one win away from locking in a trip to the SEC Championship and it would take an all-time upset from Arkansas to knock the Tigers off this weekend in Death Valley.