#12 LSU prepared for typically tough, tight game against Arkansas
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — LSU coach Brian Kelly referred to the Arkansas Razorbacks this week as a “scary team.”
That doesn’t necessarily jibe with how the oddsmakers see it.
The 12th-ranked Tigers (2-1, 1-0 SEC) are listed as more than two-touchdown favorites by FanDuel Sportsbook for the Saturday night tilt against Arkansas (2-1, 0-0) in Death Valley.
Then again, the annual matchup also known as the “Battle for the Golden Boot” is often close.
Last year, the Tigers narrowly escaped Fayetteville with a 13-10 victory. The previous three meetings, in fact, each has been decided by three points.
“Our guys understand who we’re playing and the tough games that we’ve had with them, including last year,” Kelly said. “So they’ll be prepared for that.”
After being ranked fifth in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll, the Tigers stumbled out of the gate against Florida State, but have since outscored two opponents 113-24 combined and turned heads with their 41-14 victory at Mississippi State last weekend.
“They were incredible,” Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said of LSU’s most recent performance. “They were just all over the place on defense and then they threw the ball well.
“They got embarrassed the first game and they said, ‘We’re better than this,’ which they are,” Pittman added. “I don’t know what the problem was the first game, but they’re playing a lot better.”
Pittman would like to see his team bounce back similarly from its lone loss of the season last week to BYU.
“We’ve still got nine games left. We’re still undefeated in the SEC,” Pittman said., “So, let’s see what happens.
“This is as good a team as we’re going to play,” Pittman added. “This will define a little bit where we’re at. ... If we get prepared, it’ll be a hell of a game.”
Both teams feature experienced quarterbacks who can challenges defenses as passers or runners.
LSU’s Jayden Daniels had 425 yards of total offense last week with two TDs passing and two rushing. It was the second time this season he has eclipsed 400 yards passing and rushing combined in one game — the other being against Florida State.
“He’s just throwing the ball on point and then he’s a great runner,” Pittman said of Daniels, who transferred from Arizona State to LSU in 2022. “He’s playing in my opinion the best he’s ever played right now.”
Kelly said he was particularly impressed by Daniels’ poise as a passer, commending his QB for “not backing down, staying in the pocket knowing that he was going to get hit and still delivering the ball with great accuracy.”
Meanwhile, Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson, who is 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, has been his team’s third-leading rusher with 80 yards and a touchdown on the ground, even as he also has thrown for 629 yards and six touchdowns.
“We can’t just go in and tackle high and expect to bring him down,” LSU defensive end Sai’vion Jones said. “The emphasis on him is to make sure we hit him nice and low.”
Jones added that LSU defenders will have to maintain “backside pursuit” on Jefferson, making sure they “always run to the ball (and) don’t assume he’s down.”
Arkansas has ben plagued by penalties, committing 25 for 245 yards in three games — including 14 for 125 yards in the BYU loss.
“You’re going to have some missed assignments in a game — I thought we had more than what we should have — but it’s the penalties that are killing drives and keeping (opponent) drives alive and things of that nature that we just have to get corrected,” Pittman said.
Both teams were hit hard by the news that LSU safety Greg Brooks needed emergency surgery to remove a brain tumor.
Much remains unclear about the prognosis for Brooks, a Louisiana native who played three seasons at Arkansas before transferring to the flagship school in his home state in 2022 for Kelly’s first season with the Tigers.
Brooks had surgery just one day before LSU played at Mississippi State. After that victory, Kelly said he’d reserve a game ball for Brooks. At that time, LSU was only saying that Brooks had missed the game for a “medical emergency,” but did not provide specifics about his condition until the family made a statement on Wednesday morning.
“That struck home for us and hit our hearts hard because he’s a leader on this team,” LSU center Charles Turner said.
Pittman called Brooks “a wonderful, wonderful kid.”
“That didn’t change when he decided to go back to his home state,” Pittman said. “We have prayed and will continue to pray every day for his health.”
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