Can LSU remain unbeaten?
With a potential spot in the SEC championship game and a chance at the BCS national championship on the line, Arkansas and LSU battle in Baton Rouge on Friday afternoon in the national game of the week.
Until, at least, our attention turns to Alabama-Auburn in the Iron Bowl on Saturday.
Will the Tigers remain No. 1 after this weekend? Or will the Razorbacks be able to knock off the Bayou Bengals in Death Valley?
Of course, it's been well-documented that even if Arkansas beats LSU, the Razorbacks still could miss the SEC title game and a shot at the BCS title if Alabama beats Auburn.
Let's take a look at what to watch during this post-Thanksgiving SEC contest...
Can the Hogs run the ball effectively?
The loss of Knile Davis to injury in the preseason really dealt a blow to the Razorbacks' rushing attack. Not only had Davis proved to be an every-down back last season, but he also was adept at catching the ball out of the backfield. And the ground game really made the team's aerial attack that much stronger. But 5-9, 213-pound junior Dennis Johnson has had a strong second half after a very slow start this fall, rushing for at least 85 yards in four of his last five games. And despite his build, he has proved capable of rushing in between the tackles, doing what bruising junior Ronnie Wingo Jr. was expected to do in Davis' absence. The major question against the Tigers is whether these backs can be productive enough to put quarterback Tyler Wilson in manageable passing situations. The Hogs have not faced a defensive line as good as this since the blowout loss to Alabama, when it rushed for just 17 yards. And this LSU front is deeper and more athletic. Expect Wilson to pass on traditional run downs and use his explosive and talented receiver corps, led by Jarius Wright and Joe Adams. But this offense cannot be one-dimensional.
Wilson vs. LSU's secondary
ICONTyler Wilson and the Hogs will face their toughest test since their clash with Alabama.
There's a chance that the Tigers could get sophomore safeties Eric Reid and Craig Loston back for this game after the pair missed last week's game against Ole Miss. Reid, who is a starter, left the game against the Rebels with a thigh injury while Loston sat out with a concussion and a hand injury. Loston has a very good chance of playing while a return isn't guaranteed for Reid, though he is feeling much better and head coach Les Miles remains optimistic. If worse comes to worse, Loston would step in as the starter, though most of his experience in the secondary came in the early part of the season. Either way, Thorpe Award finalist Morris Claiborne, Bednarik Trophy finalist Tyrann Mathieu, Brandon Taylor and Ron Brooks will pose a serious threat to this Hogs passing attack. Entering this contest, LSU ranks third in the SEC in passing defense, allowing just 158 yards per game and surrendering a league-low five touchdowns through the air. But Wilson, who leads the SEC with 292.3 passing yards per game, has this offense really clicking. But can the Hogs protect their signal-caller? We saw this offensive line get overwhelmed by the Crimson Tide, but this unit has improved since that loss to 'Bama in September. However, this Tigers front is deeper and more athletic than the Tide's defenders in the trenches. Wilson has shown that he can take a pounding and still deliver the football, but end Barkevious Mingo and this Tigers front will be coming after him all game long.
Is Jefferson once again the No. 1 QB?
It's been a tumultuous senior season for LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who was supposed to be the unquestioned starter entering the season before an off-the-field issue led to Jarrett Lee assuming the starting job and helping lead the Tigers through their undefeated stretch. But following Lee's second interception against Alabama, Jefferson has essentially run this offense. He played the first three quarters against Western Kentucky and the first half against Ole Miss before Lee came into the game to milk a 42-3 lead in the third quarter. Jefferson went 7 of 7 for 88 yards and a touchdown against the Rebels, but Miles said both will play against the Razorbacks. Jefferson's value is enhanced because of his dual-threat capabilities, but Miles knows that he's going to need both quarterbacks if this team is going to win a national championship. Can you really envision a scenario where Lee isn't needed for a couple of big-time third-down throws? Those clutch plays could prove necessary on Friday against the Razorbacks, whose defensive line is a bit undersized but very athletic.
X-Factor: The road woes of Arkansas...We saw the Hogs struggle in wins over Ole Miss and Vanderbilt on the road, and their offense has played much better at home all season. Despite the fact that home-field advantage doesn't often matter in this rivalry, will we see Wilson and Co. struggle again on the road against one of the nation's best defenses?
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