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Playing Nice: Arkansas

Calling the Hogs with my good buddy Tucker Partridge

USC v Arkansas Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

LSU is riding high after beating Alabama 32-31 Saturday night and were rewarded this week by the College Football Playoff committee with the No. 7 ranking.

Things are going really well for LSU, but the season’s not over. And the Tigers have to do maybe the hardest thing in all of college sports: play a game after an exhilarating win over your rival. LSU’s gotta regroup and head up to Fayetteville to take on an Arkansas team that has long been a pain in the Tigers’s side.

LSU’s certainly got a score to settle after losing The Boot to Sam Pittman’s boys last year. If the Tigers can bring that big ass trophy home they may also bring back an SEC West championship as well. To help preview this week’s game is our annual chat with my favorite Razorback: Tucker Partridge.

1. Arkansas had a solid year under Sam Pittman last season, but are currently 5-4 and coming off a 21-19 loss to Liberty. What’s gone wrong for Sam Pittman’s crew this year?

This year has been dominated by two i’s: inconsistency and injury. Injuries impact everyone, but Arkansas’ secondary has been snake bitten this year. Jalen Catalon was a potential first round safety and was lost for the year for the second year in a row. Pretty much everyone else in the secondary has had some kind of injury as well. Our best defensive back last week, Quincey McAdoo is a converted wide receiver. On offense, KJ Jefferson has been banged up, and it’s become clear that this team runs through him. When everyone plays though, the team has been killed by inconsistency. I’m not sure I’ve seen a full 4 quarters from this team yet. The fight and heart is there, but there have been an alarming number of slow starts this year.

I was willing to write off the loss to A&M as Calvinist Football God’s cruelty, and willing to consider the loss to Mississippi State a wash because KJ was out, and willing to consider that we haven’t beaten Bama since 2006, but a loss to The Fighting Falwells mixed with some rough performances throughout some of the wins this year have me concerned. There’s a leadership gap this year with Catalon out, and KJ and Bumper Pool being injured. We don’t have a Grant Morgan type this year who gets in faces and brings out the fire in the team. I also think he’s been let down by his coordinators at various stages of the season. The secondary has been banged up, but that doesn’t excuse allowing 70 yard runs on 3rd and 16. It’s been a weird one, and now this year has gone from hoping for a premiere bowl to hoping we make a bowl. I still believe in Pittman, but some changes are probably necessary this offseason.

2. Can you tell us how likely it is that KJ Jefferson will play Saturday?

I think he’ll play. He’s been battling a shoulder injury for the past couple of weeks, but Pittman has indicated that he’s practicing more now than he did last week, so we’ll likely see a banged-up KJ for the rest of the year. If he doesn’t go, it’ll be Malik Hornsby who offers a lot as a runner, but still needs to develop as a passer.

3. I’m giving you the floor to rant about Kendal Briles.

I’ve said everything you can say about Kendal Briles, so I will be brief. He did block me on Twitter, and I’ve never tagged him so he name-searches which is absolute cowardly posting behavior. I don’t know why though. It’s nothing personal. It’s just that I have issues with an offensive coordinator who has drawn up a double pass no fewer than 7 times in his tenure and has yet to succeed on one. I have some further issues with his propensity to draw up those stupid gimmick plays at a time that halts all offensive momentum and kills drives. I also have issues with being a replacement level offensive coordinator who covered up a massive rape scandal and faced no professional or personal consequences. Can’t wait for him to be someone else’s problem.

4. Arkansas is consistently the biggest pain in LSU’s ass year in and year out. LSU seemingly never plays well in Fayetteville but this year’s game kicks off at 11 A.M. (gross). What kind of atmosphere should LSU expect Saturday morning?

I honestly don’t know. Because it’s a rivalry game, I expect the crowd to be big, but maybe not capacity after the loss last week. 11am kickoffs suck, and the crowd definitely won’t be as rowdy as they would be at 6pm. Tennessee in 2020 was our last home SEC night game, and LSU in 2018 was our last capacity crowd at a home SEC night game. It’s been a while since the Hog faithful have gotten to get fully sauced for an SEC battle. I’m sure it’ll be a hostile crowd for LSU, but I wish it was at night.

5. Not to sound arrogant, but The Boot doesn’t seem to mean nearly as much to LSU as it does to Arkansas. If Arkansas were to lose The Boot this year is that a big deal to y’all?

It’s more slanted to us than it is to LSU because y’all will always have Alabama before us on your hate list. I’m on record as saying I hate the physical trophy because it’s big and gaudy. It should just be a normal old boot—maybe spray-painted gold. Regardless, I don’t want to lose it, because we’ve already lost a “trophy game” to Ole Miss, and nobody cares about The Battle Line Rivalry Presented by Shelter Insurance™ trophy. I don’t think it would be season-definingly devastating, but c’mon, I don’t want LSU to win!

6. Next year’s game is going to be played in September instead of November. I’m not sure if that’s a one-off or a long term change. Anyway, does the dynamic of the rivalry change once this game’s being played in September?

I’ve tried to divorce my football fandom from nostalgia—it just feels healthier—but I’ll hate that this game is in September. In my mind, playing LSU when there’s a crisp November breeze with the stakes of a whole season on the line is just the way things should be. As swampy as Arkansas and Louisiana can be in September, I think it’s cruel to play the game then.

7. Okay last one. I’m never confident playing Arkansas, the Hogs have spoiled far too many LSU seasons than I care to remember. If this year’s team WERE to throw a wrench in LSU’s plans and upset the Tigers, how would it play out?

I’m not confident in this game! While I was enjoying posting Brian Kelly memes in week 1, I can’t help but admire the quickness of his rebuild. With that said, it’s an Arkansas-LSU game so I know chaos could reign. I think that’s what it would take—some untimely LSU turnovers, some 50-50 balls that go Arkansas’ way, and probably a breakout by a running back wearing number 5. Rocket isn’t DMac, but he’s very, very good, and with KJ banged up, he’ll have to carry the load on offense.