LSU heads to Arkansas with SEC West title within grasp
The LSU Tigers are in the driver’s seat to win the SEC West.
The Tigers (7-2, 5-1) moved up to No. 7 in the CFP rankings Tuesday night after a 32-31 overtime victory over Alabama last Saturday. That put them in position to win the West if they win their last two conference games.
First up is a game at Arkansas (5-4, 2-3) on Saturday. Coming off the upset victory against the Crimson Tide, LSU’s second in the past 12 meetings, the game against the inconsistent Razorbacks could be seen as “a trap game,” but Tigers coach Brian Kelly doesn’t see it that way.
“I’ve never bought into that because I think if it’s a trap game, you have not done a very good job with your football team,” Kelly said. “They know that Arkansas is an SEC opponent that beat them last year (16-13).
“It becomes a trap game if you’re not thinking right, and we’ll get our guys thinking the right way, and we’ll prepare the right way.”
LSU, which began the season unranked and was unranked as recently as three weeks ago, has won three straight, beating Florida and previously unbeaten Ole Miss before Alabama.
“We didn’t do anything different last week than we did for Ole Miss or we did for any of the other teams,” Kelly said.
The players understand the opportunity they have created for themselves, but Kelly said he won’t allow them to let it be a distraction.
“We’re not going to walk in with a PowerPoint on the SEC Championship race,” he said, “but it’s out there. They know what they’re going for.”
Arkansas rose to as high as No. 10 in the poll after winning its first three games, but that was followed by a three-game losing streak.
The Razorbacks bounced back to beat BYU and Auburn by a combined score of 93-62. But last week they lost at home to Liberty 21-19 as quarterback KJ Jefferson struggled while playing through a shoulder injury. He had the first multi-interception game of his career, throwing two, but coach Sam Pittman didn’t turn to backup Malik Hornsby.
Pittman said Jefferson’s limited practice time was a bigger factor in his performance than the injury itself.
“It was about is he healthy enough to play, and the answer was yes,” Pittman said. “So, there was never really a thought of pulling him out because of performance. It was about whether he was healthy or not. And obviously he ended up playing the last quarter or so well. He got back in the groove a little bit.”
Arkansas scored just three points during the first three quarters before scoring 16 in the fourth but still coming up short.
Jefferson, who finished 23 of 37 for 284 yards with two touchdowns against Liberty, is expected to practice more this week and start against LSU.
“My message to the team is if we don’t stay together, it ain’t going to work,” defensive back Quincey McAdoo said. “We’ve got to go back to work.”
–Field Level Media