If LSU vs. Alabama was the Game of the Century, exactly what do you call this one?
Hindsight is always 20/20, but looking back, the Game of the Century doesn't seem as large or important now, since the two teams ended up exactly where they started. Suddenly, November 25th is the date to circle, Arkansas the team to star. So what made the LSU/Bama game the game of the century but this one... not?
Well, Alabama pummeled Arkansas. That takes some luster off the game, no matter how you slice it. Yet, anyone who expects because Alabama destroyed Arkansas, and LSU beat Alabama, that, LSU will crush Arkansas is misguided. Get that nonsense out of here. There's plenty of actual, logical reasons to believe the Tigers will smoke the Hogs, that you can find after the jump.
1) Is Arkansas' offense really better than LSU's?
The LSU/Alabama match-up was interesting for many reasons, primarily that it was truly "weakness" on strength. Both teams are similarly styled: power running, controlled passing, don't lose the game on offense and let your defense do the dirty work. Whose defense was going to wilt first? Neither team's offenses are their calling cards (read: I'm not saying either is an actual "weakness" either). In the end, LSU won out because Miles outcoached Saban, and his team made plays when Alabama's didn't.
Against Arkansas, the common impression is that it's the prolific Arkansas offense against the unyielding LSU defense, with most of the discussion surrounding these units. Yet, when I truly step back and look at the numbers, I give pause. Where's the real advantage for Arkansas? Take a look:
LSU - 37.91
Arkansas - 39.27
LSU - 159.38
Arkansas - 148.74
Yards Per Passing Attempt:
LSU - 8.38
Arkansas - 8.34
LSU - 63.18%
Arkansas - 63.40%
Rushing Yards Per Carry:
LSU - 4.77
Arkansas - 4.55
LSU - 96%
Arkansas - 87% (on only one more drive into the RZ)
LSU - 6
Arkansas - 16
LSU - 10
Arkansas - 20
3rd Down Conversion Percentage
LSU - 47.41%
Arkansas - 41.56%
Petrino is an offensive guru, and his accomplishments are well noted (and respected). You'll notice the stats I didn't quote above were yardage totals. It's not because I intend to post only stats that favor LSU. It's more so that I believe rate stats to provide more relevant insight into the game than total numbers. In that regard, LSU proves to be as competent, if not better than Arkansas. LSU also turns the ball over less, gets sacked less often and converts third downs at a better rate. So LSU runs it better (significantly so), throws it as well, and allows fewer negative plays (sacks, TFLs and turnovers), while scoring as many points, and somehow I'm supposed to believe Arkansas has the superior offense?
Before you bring it up, yes, I understand that LSU's offense won't be taking the field against Arkansas' offense on Saturday. My point is that, most have universally crowned Arkansas' offense as "superior" and I, frankly, don't buy it.
2) LSU's defense is clearly superior.
Do I really need stats to support this? There is possibly one defense that is better in the country, and regardless, LSU's defense is on another tier than Arkansas, who struggles to stop the run.
If Arkansas has any real advantage on defense, it's that their RZ efficiency is vastly superior. Yet, I can't help but think that's semi-irrelevant when LSU is allowing 11 points fewer a game.
3) LSU is playing at home
It's been my opinion, from early on in the season, that LSU is far superior to every other team in the country this year. Others would be quick to point out the narrow win vs. Alabama. It's a fair point. When I re-watch the tape, I see a team that missed multiple opportunities to score ( some credit goes to the Alabama defense). The game wound up 9-6, but easily could have been 20-6, or worse. But forget the coulda, shoulda, wouldas, I do think one thing that kept that game so much closer was the fact that it was in Tuscaloosa.
This game being in Baton Rouge is an advantage for LSU. Arkansas has been a miserable road team, as well. Don't discount the importance of this. There's a reason the betting line is giving LSU 14 points.
4) Match-up Advantages
A lot of people point to the Arkansas passing attack and mention that they can do to us what WVU was able to do. I'm not sure it's the same. While I do think Petrino will likely try to incorporate the quick passing game into his gameplan, that's not how the Arkansas passing game is built. This isn't a Texas Tech-styled, quick passes, get into the open field type of team. They like play action. They like vertical stretches, but most of all, they like a power running game that a team like WVU could never establish to balance things out in Morgantown. Arkansas' line has struggled all season, and I don't foresee them suddenly gelling against a defensive line which has really upped the ante for pressure in recent weeks.
A large reason Arkansas beat LSU last year was their ability to run the ball with Knile Davis. If LSU can contain that element of their game (which they've been able to do to every other opponent they've played to date), then the pressure will start to come on Wilson, and he's not exactly reacted positively to the sight of pressure.
On the other side of the ball, LSU's ability to run the ball on just about everyone spells trouble for an Arkansas' team that gets run on... by just about everyone. Look for big days from Ware, Ford and the lot.
Yeah, I said it... damn it.
Okay, now that I said all that, I'd like to note that I offered a careful caveat at the beginning: There's plenty of actual, logical reasons to believe the Tigers will smoke the Hogs, that you can find after the jump. Of course there's reason to believe it, that doesn't mean they will come true though.
Wait, who am I kidding? Get the spit ready... we're about to roast some Hog.
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