FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — The Alabama hangover has been real for LSU the last two seasons.
With its physical style of play, Arkansas is not exactly a cup of Alka-Seltzer for any team coming off a physically and emotionally draining defeat. As a result, the Tigers have experienced back-to-back 17-point defeats against the Hogs.
This year, the matchups seem to indicate a distinct advantage for LSU as it looks to snap the minor skid.
LSU: There is no two ways about it — Danny Etling was exposed last week against Alabama. He often did not have time to throw, and when he did, the ball was frequently flying somewhere other than into the hands of his receivers. The Razorbacks have half as many sacks as Bama, though, so he should have more time to remain composed this week.
Arkansas: With SEC quarterbacks dropping like flies, Austin Allen is one of the best remaining. He is second behind Auburn’s Sean White in passing efficiency and ranks third in yards per game behind the now-injured Chad Kelly and Missouri’s Drew Lock.
LSU: For the second straight year, Leonard Fournette was neutralized by Alabama’s run defense. It has to be a massive frustration for the hyper-competitive Fournette, but fortunately he gets to take it out on a defense allowing 198 yards per game on the ground. Also expect to see more of Derrius Guice this week.
Arkansas: Hogs running back Rawleigh Williams is just 45 yards away from joining Auburn’s Kamryn Pettway as the second member of the SEC’s 1,000-yard club in 2016.
Edge: LSU by virtue of having two backs capable of Williams’ output
LSU: Last week was a tough one for LSU’s tight ends, who were usually part of the blocking scheme and frequently failed to hold those blocks. They should have more chances to be part of the passing game this week.
Arkansas: Arkansas native Drew Morgan is Allen’s favorite target on dinks and dunks with an average of 10.7 yards on 48 catches. Tight end Jeremy Sprinkle also can be a weapon — he had three touchdowns against Mississippi State last season.
LSU: Dogging the O-line has been a top parlor game around Louisiana this week after Alabama’s domination. Redemption should be available against the unit ranked 13th in the SEC in tackles for loss.
Arkansas: Bret Bielema’s teams are known for dominant offensive lines, and with no starter under 318 pounds, this group should be no exception. But they have given up 22 sacks, which is the second-worst mark in the league.
LSU: Again, the Tigers should have some opportunities to get to the quarterback after holding their own against Bama’s powerful offense last week. Auburn had 11 tackles for loss against the Hogs on Oct. 22.
Arkansas: After the Auburn embarrassment on both sides of the ball, Arkansas stepped up with 6 tackles for loss and 3 sacks against Florida. We’ll see if that was an aberration or a turnaround for the Hogs.
LSU: The two best linebacking corps in the country were on display last week with LSU and Alabama.
Arkansas: You can’t allow as many rushing yards as Arkansas has without some deficiencies in the second level.
LSU: The Tigers dominated last week, allowing 107 yards against a pretty potent Alabama passing attack. Arkansas does not have stronger weapons than Alabama’s.
Arkansas: Don’t sleep on the Razorback defensive backs. Arkansas has picked off nine passes this season and returned four for touchdowns.
Edge: LSU, but if Arkansas wins, someone from its secondary will have made a game-changing play.
LSU: The punt unit did a great job against Alabama, but the Tigers had a field goal attempt blocked and a blunder of a Tre’Davious White punt return that was fielded at the 3-yard line.
Arkansas: The Razorbacks rank last in the SEC in kickoff return average at 17.3 yards per return. Kicker Adam McFain is on a hot streak, though, hitting all five of his field goal attempts, including a long of 54.
LSU: Ed Orgeron is taking the Tigers on the road for the first time and trying to bounce back from a loss for the first time — both of which are tests athletic director Joe Alleva needs to see him pass before hiring Coach O full-time.
Arkansas: Bielema has LSU’s number until proven otherwise. We’ll see if Coach O can prove better at outmaneuvering him than Les Miles.
This was always the most important game in Orgeron’s candidacy for the head coaching gig. Had the Tigers won last week against Alabama, he needed to prove he could bring LSU on the road and avoid a letdown. Instead, he now has to prove he can get the team to bounce back from disappointment.
Either way, a win puts him in a very good position to stick around as LSU’s head coach next year.
Hickey’s Pick: LSU 24, Arkansas 20