FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — Arkansas hosts No. 19 LSU on Saturday evening inside Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium. The Hogs are looking to win two consecutive games for the first time since mid-September.
To help us preview the game, LSU football and recruiting reporter Sam Spiegelman joined the Borderline Erotic Podcast earlier this week. What follows is an abridged version of that conversation.
Jason Kersey: A lot has been made in the last few days of the fact that — for the third straight year — LSU has to play Arkansas in the week immediately following a loss to Alabama. Do you think that has as big an impact on the Tigers as many seem to believe?
Sam Spiegelman: That’s certainly the biggest question going into this game because in years past they’ve come off losses to Alabama and they’ve come out flat. Whether they admit it or not … their season really is now, “What bowl can we get?” That’s not as inspiring as still competing to get to the SEC championship game.
This is where I think one of the bigger differences between Les Miles and Ed Orgeron is, is that they have this “Tell The Truth Monday” and all these specialized days of the week to refocus and re-energize. I think they’re gonna get up for this Arkansas game because I think they’re still playing for coach Orgeron to get this job on a full-time basis.
Having said that, I think this maybe would be perceived differently if Arkansas had come up short against Florida. But giving the Gators a beatdown and now LSU having to go on the road with a loss in their pocket certainly raises questions.
Trent Shadid: I think people nationally view this Arkansas-LSU rivalry game as one that Arkansas maybe cares about a little bit more than LSU. Do you think that’s fair, and do you think LSU might be a little more motivated because they have lost two in a row in this series?
Spiegelman: I think that’s definitely a factor. I don’t think that they consider Arkansas one of their top rivalries. To them, it’s Alabama because they expect to be competing for the SEC West with them each and every year. Obviously, that hasn’t gone their way, but the fact is that some recruiting wars go on between LSU and Arkansas these days because of Bret Bielema and Michael Smith, which wasn’t the case so many years ago.
Coach Orgeron may be a little more cognizant of Arkansas being on the up and up as opposed to Les Miles, so giving them praise … they are aware that this is a legit competitor now, and it’s only going to get better as Arkansas continues to improve under Bielema.
Kersey: I know there has been some concern regarding Leonard Fournette’s health coming into this game. What’s the latest there?
Spiegelman: From people I’ve spoken to, Leonard is gonna be dealing with that ankle injury for the rest of the year, the remaining three games on the schedule and probably the bowl game. The injury started during fall camp, and he aggravated it during Wisconsin. He can play through it; he’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met. If it’s not serious enough to keep him out, he’ll play.
I don’t think he would be playing if he was a sophomore because he would have his junior year. But the fact is, it’s inevitable that he goes to the NFL, so he’s getting his last three college games in. Otherwise, I think LSU would be content to have Derrius Guice shoulder the workload. So, if he’s dinged up, they’re probably going to use him sparingly and probably increase the snaps for Derrius. I’m sure that’s something Arkansas is preparing for to see the contrasting style between Leonard going downhill and Guice’s ability to just snap a long run on any given play.
Shadid: Danny Etling is going to be about the sixth transfer quarterback Arkansas has played this year. What has he brought to the team, and what impact has he had?
Spiegelman: During spring practices, there was legit talk about Etling pushing Brandon Harris for the job. Hindsight is 20/20, but Etling showed enough to make this 4-star, Louisiana-made quarterback a little bit nervous about his position going into the season. Him being thrust onto the scene into the Jacksonville State game, he played well. He played as good or maybe better than you could have expected out of a transfer quarterback from Purdue.
He’s played well, especially under (Steve) Ensminger’s play-calling in the first three games. He, obviously, struggled against Alabama, but there aren’t too many quarterbacks who you would expect to have a lot of success against Alabama. I think he was a little bit gun-shy against Alabama as well. He threw a lot of balls into the dirt.
But also, on the offensive line, LSU has a bunch of guards playing tackle and probably their best tackle playing center, so it’s not exactly an ideal front to be protecting Danny Etling.