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What To Watch For: Arkansas

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Welcome back everyone, we’ve all aged since we last did this.

Jonathan Bachman, Getty Images

So, everyone, how has your last six years been? It feels like it’s been over half a decade since LSU last suited up; in that same vein it feels like such a mudslide of a year and season that it almost doesn’t matter.

But it does to the kids, at least Terrace Marshall, who deserves endless praise for his leadership and heart. Caring this much knowing you’ll (almost certainly) be heading to the NFL in a few months cannot be taught by a coach, it can only be raised and imparted. Terrace Marshall, you rule.

This week, LSU has the upstart Arkansas (if the game happens). No it isn’t a great team, but they are massively improved, likable, and better than LSU, the worst team in the SEC West. LSU is kind of in shambles: young, beset by COVID, injured, disheveled schematically on defense...you get it, it’s all bad. Arkansas just got hammered by a very good Florida team, but they’ve been a positive surprise, a well coached team with heart and two effective coordinators. Arkansas is apparently toeing the threshold for postponement, so this game may not be played at all. Let’s get into it anyway.


For LSU

Effort

First and foremost, I want to see how much these kids can still give to this season. This is clearly a lost season, one that feels utterly farcical anyway given the massive irregularities. The team isn’t good, though it is talented. I really find it hard to blame kids for mentally checking out of this year. That said, it is the job of the coaching staff and team leaders to make sure that doesn’t happen. Terrace Marshall took a great step toward that this week, but effort has been a problem all year and you can’t win anything without it.

Assignments and communication, part 800.

This is going to be one every week. We need to see these guys understand their coverage assignments, because they continue not to. Anything more complicated than ‘‘cover the guy in front of you” seems to have been cartoonishly taught by Pelini. When a team sends somebody across the formation or motions into a bunch or stack, these guys look lost on how to account for it. Week after week.

QBanon

Who starts at quarterback this week? What about going forward? Who gets the edge if both play? I’m really interested to see what goes down at the quarterback spot this week. As of right now, I don’t know who will start, and frankly, I have no idea what to expect overall. Max Johnson was sidelined in practice with COVID over the last couple weeks so it looks like Finley will have the edge, but Johnson should play and potentially start at least one of the remaining games. This, right now, is just about seeing what those guys can do and hoping they don’t get ruined developmentally behind a depleted and bad offensive line.

LSU Stat Leader Predictions

Passing; Finley, 17/31, 217, 2 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: Emery, 23 carries, 82 yards, 1 TD.

Receiving: Marshall, 7 catches, 96 yards, 2 TD.

For Arkansas

Who is even going to play?

A specter is haunting Arkansas, the specter of COVID. The team is riddled with cases right now and Sam Pittman describes them as “thin.” It looks like they could be missing some key contributors. The betting line has moved and Arkansas message boards are abuzz with every name you could think of being invoked as a possibility so, who knows. It’s tough for me to hype up matchups and players to watch knowing that any of it could be blown up at any time by COVID. Hell, the game itself could be.

Man killer.

Kendal Briles has to be licking his chops. He is facing a defense that can probably only play straight man to man reliably. There’s a lot you can do to attack that both conceptually and formationally. Auburn used a lot of bunch sets and switched releases to create disadvantageous situations for LSU defenders as I covered in depth in my post game review a couple weeks ago. LSU also struggles to communicate changes in assignment that occur as a result of motion. Look for Arkansas to do all of these things, as well as pick plays and rub incorporated concepts like mesh.

Arkansas Stat Leader Predictions (if these guys play)

Passing; Franks, 21/30, 373 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: Boyd, 17 carries, 97 yards, 1 TD

Receiving: Woods, 8 catches, 91 yards, 1 TD