There is usually a lot on the line when LSU and Arkansas meet up on the Friday after Thanksgiving.
The battle for the Golden Boot typically carries major post season ramifications. National title hopes have been shattered and bowl bids have been gained or bettered in this border state rivalry.
This year, however, carries a little different meaning for both teams.
A Sunday afternoon motorcycle wreck in the spring by then head coach Bobby Petrino, with his mistress riding piggyback, turned a promising season for the Razorbacks upside down and left the team scratching and clawing just get first downs. Arkansas started the year ranked number 8; but an early season loss to mid-major Louisiana Monroe began a year-long spiral that had them out of the top 25 all together. The Hogs went from talks of a possible SEC Championship and a BCS bowl berth to hoping to just earn the right to play in a bowl. Any bowl. With their loss last week to Mississippi State, those hopes were clanked away with the cowbells that filled the Starkville atmosphere. So, for the Razorbacks, this game will mark the end of a season that has been filled with more roller coaster rides than Six Flags on a Saturday in June. But for many Razorback faithful, it cannot get here soon enough. The interim coach will be relieved of his duties, another coach will be hired and a new era in Razorback football will begin. As soon as 00:00 hits the clock at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
On the other sideline stands a team that had similar preseason hopes dashed. LSU came into the season with championship hopes and visions of hoisting the crystal ball dancing in their heads. Those dreams disappeared into the thick, humid Baton Rouge air two weeks ago on a last minute, fourth quarter drive by AJ McCarron and the Alabama Crimson Tide. So now, the only thing left for the Tigers to play for is clinching another 10 win season and increasing their bowl bid. A great year for 95% of the FBS teams in college football. Not acceptable for LSU.
But that’s where we are.
Two teams on opposite ends of the spectrum.
Two teams headed in completely different directions.
Two teams battling for two different victories.
The Razorbacks, for all intents and purposes, are playing for pride. This is, in essence, their bowl game. But if they don’t stop turning the ball over and hurting themselves with foolish penalties, the game will get out of hand early.
The LSU Tigers suit up one of the nastiest defenses in all of college football. They are fast and physical and relentless and they do not like giving up points. The Tigers offense is becoming more and more explosive with the late season development of first year starter Zach Mettenberger to go along with the Tigers’ aggressive running attack.
The Razorbacks have the weapons on offense to put points on the board. Arkansas is led by one of the toughest quarterbacks in the nation, Tyler Wilson and an All-SEC WR in Cobi Hamilton. The Hogs have the capabilities to keep the game close. The only problem is their propensity to give the ball away. If they turn it over and give the Tigers extra possessions early, it will get out hand before the bands have a chance to march.
Arkansas will come out with a lot of emotion and energy for senior day in Fayetteville. It won’t be enough. LSU will win this one and secure, at worst, a New Year’s Day bowl game. For Arkansas fans, 00:00 can’t get here fast enough.
Where To Watch: Arkansas vs. LSU
Arkansas Razorbacks vs. LSU Tigers, Friday, November 23. 2:30 est. on CBS.