LSU didn’t beat Alabama again in 2016.
But they can win a boot on Saturday – a nearly 200-pound golden boot at that.
As always, the stakes will be high on Saturday as the Tigers travel up to Fayetteville for an evening date with rival Arkansas.
The game historically is known as ‘The Battle for the Golden Boot,’ because the winner gets a massive, shiny trophy that depicts both Louisiana and Arkansas as they appear on a map.
But for LSU, the game represents an opportunity for progress – a chance to finish the season with a bang and possibly give coach Ed Orgeron some much-needed momentum as he attempts to secure the Tigers coaching position full-time.
Kick-off for the game is set for 6 p.m. It will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
“(Last week), we didn’t get the result that we wanted, but it’s time to move on,” Orgeron said at his Monday luncheon. “This is game five of a new season. We promised each other, we’re going to take it one game at a time. Like I said, it’s going to be important to put this away and move on to a tough, very tough, Arkansas team who plays very, very good at home.”
The Razorbacks have gotten the best of LSU for the past several years, but this year, LSU has a lot of advantages in the game – at least on paper.
Offensively, the Tigers matchup favorably with Arkansas on paper – far better than they did last week against Alabama.
LSU didn’t move the ball at all against the Tide last weekend, generating just a handful of first downs in the loss, thanks in large part to a stingy Alabama defense that totally took away the Tigers’ power run game.
But Arkansas isn’t likely to do the same on Saturday night.
The Razorbacks allow more than 200 yards rushing per game, while having yielded 30 or more points in five of their nine games.
That should mean quality opportunities for LSU halfbacks Leonard Fournette and Derrius Guice to run freely.
But Orgeron said he’s also wanting to see a better showing from every facet of the offense – a unit, which was grounded last weekend in Tiger Stadium.
“We need to do what our offense does best,” Orgeron said. “When you go back to these first three games, we played – we ran the ball very effectively. We had some great play action. We took shots down the field. We managed the clock. We had some long drives. We have to go back to that.”
Arkansas is pretty good at all of those things, too, and will present a challenge to the mighty LSU defense.
The Razorbacks are one of the most balanced offenses in the SEC – a group that has both run and passed the football with success throughout the year.
Quarterback Austin Allen is the guy who gets things rolling for the Razorbacks. He’s one of the best signal callers in the conference, having completed 170-of-275 passes for 2,291 yards and 19 touchdowns this season.
But Arkansas also has a power running game it can go to, led by halfback Rawleigh Williams III, who enters the game with 179 carries for 955 yards and seven touchdowns.
Arkansas coach Bret Bielema said the key for the Razorbacks on Saturday will be how the team handles first down situations.
If Arkansas can get in manageable down and distances, Bielema thinks the Hogs can move the football. If they don’t, the coach expects to see the same thing that LSU did to Alabama last Saturday – turnovers, punts and lots of plays for little or no gain.
“They have a great defense,” Bielema said. “They play at a very high level. It puts a burden on all 11 players on the field to execute at a high level, because one breakdown and they’re going to attack.”
LSU offense v. Arkansas defense
It’s hard to give LSU’s offense an advantage over anyone after how they played last week against Alabama. But styles make fights and LSU loves to run the football and Arkansas struggles to stop it. The Tigers should have a little luck scoring points in this game.
LSU defense v. Arkansas offense
The Razorbacks are pretty slick offensively. They are the model that the Tigers ought to aim to be while rebounding their program. They love to run the football downhill, yes. But they also pass the football effectively – often to their tight ends. But LSU’s defense is special. They cause chaos to everyone they face.
This is an area Arkansas is pretty good at. Those guys are 9-of-11 on field goals this year and their punter, Toby Baker, has already blasted 17 kicks past 50 yards and has seen 13 kicks downed inside the 20-yard-line.
LSU 28, Arkansas 14
Photo: Derrius Guice with Leonard Fournette by Sean Gasser.