BATON ROUGE, La. — It is the darnedest thing. The only SEC program to have LSU’s number to the same degree as Alabama in the past two seasons is Arkansas — hardly a program with the same degree of success at the Crimson Tide.
But there are actually very good reasons the Razorbacks have been 17 points better than the Tigers for two consecutive years. Here’s what LSU needs to do to bring an end to the less ballyhooed of its losing streaks to an SEC rival with a dark red hue:
1. Forget about ‘Bama
The latest gut-wrenching loss to the Tide doesn’t just need to be left in the rearview mirror. The rearview mirror needs to be ripped off and thrown out the door of the vehicle.
Obviously the Tigers need to focus on the offensive deficiencies exposed by Alabama for sake of improvement, but outside of that it’s crucial to move forward. It feels like no coincidence that both of Arkansas’ recent stompings took place the week after the Tigers played Alabama.
“I guess people didn’t come out ready to play,” linebacker Duke Riley said after much contemplation. “It’s a different atmosphere here now. Coach O is bringing that fire to us. It doesn’t matter who we’re playing. We’re going to be ready to play … we can feel the different vibe he brings.”
2. Run, run, run
Arkansas can be and must be exploited on the ground. So much so that comparisons to a Les Miles/Cam Cameron playbook will not be derogatory statements this week.
Arkansas doesn’t get much push up front, ranking above only Vanderbilt in the conference in tackles for loss. Opponents are taking advantage on the ground, running for an average of 198 yards per game.
Leonard Fournette will be hungry after another letdown against Alabama. Feed the man.
3. Don’t let the Hogs turn defense into offense
We told you about Alabama’s high-scoring defense last week. The Tide have scored nine defensive touchdowns this year. Whether it was a result of being a bit too conservative with play-calling or not, LSU was at least able to avoid falling victim to that trap.
But just because Alabama’s off the schedule does not mean Danny Etling can toss the ball around the yard without a care in the world. The Razorbacks have the same number of interception returns for touchdowns — four — as the Crimson Tide. Tossing an early pick-6 to fall behind the Football Bowl Subdivision’s top team in time of possession is one way to make an upset happen.
4. Get to the quarterback
You would think Arkansas quarterback Austin Allen would be pretty secure playing behind an offensive line of five guys who are roughly the same size as Herman Munster. You would also be incorrect.
The Hogs have allowed the second-most sacks in the SEC at 22 — an average of 2.44 per game. LSU has sacked the quarterback 21 times in its eight games, which breaks down to an average of 2.62 per game.
As is the case with running the ball, exploit your obvious advantages.
5. Upset the balance
Whether it is running or passing, LSU would be well served to make the Arkansas offense one-dimensional. The Razorbacks crave balance, and four times this season they have achieved balance with at least 200 yards on the ground and through the air.
Unsurprisingly, four of Arkansas’ six wins have come in those 200/200 games. (The Hogs were only 20 rushing yards shy of also achieving the feat in their 41-38 double-overtime victory against TCU.)
By achieving the first four items on this list, LSU would likely be in a position to also dictate the Arkansas offensive attack.