Behind door No. 1: Austin Allen — the senior quarterback and captain who was expected to start every game this season as one of the Southeastern Conference’s top returning passers, but who for the past four weeks has been rehabbing from an injury to his right shoulder.
Behind door No. 2: Cole Kelley — a 6-foot-7, 270-pound behemoth of a freshman from Lafayette who has looked good at times in the past month and shaky at others. He also battles a foot injury this week that has kept him limited at practice.
The decision is Bret Bielema’s to make.
The responsibility to prepare for whomever he choses lies solely with LSU.
Bielema won’t decide — or at least won’t announce — whether Allen or Kelley will be the starter before the Razorbacks take the field in Tiger Stadium for Saturday's 11 a.m. kickoff.
Both players are medically cleared to play, but that was also the case last week when only Kelley played in a comeback win against Coastal Carolina.
The only clue Bielema gave is that he won’t rule out playing both quarterbacks, which also was the original plan against Coastal Carolina before he decided Allen didn’t prove he was ready at practice.
The secrecy is designed to make LSU defensive coordinator Dave Aranda choose which door to defend, giving Arkansas a 50-50 chance of catching the Tigers off-guard and gaining a decided advantage.
But there’s a third door: Watch film on both, scout plays for both and be ready for either quarterback on any given drive.
LSU has picked door No. 3.
“We'll make a cut-up of Austin Allen,” LSU coach Ed Orgeron said. “We'll make a cut-up of the quarterback they have now (Kelley). And there will be a different computer report and different game plan for each quarterback, if it warrants.”
If Allen does play Saturday, LSU will have four weeks of game film from before he was injured against South Carolina this season and film from all of 2016. And the Tigers are already personally familiar with Allen from last season, when they beat the Razorbacks 38-10 in Fayetteville.
It was a dominating defensive performance in which the Tigers kept Allen to less than 50 percent completion percentage, picked him off twice and allowed just 210 yards and a touchdown. They also sacked him three times, hurried him another four and broke up six passes.
But the fact he’s played nine SEC games in his career to Kelley’s four stands out to Bielema most, he said on the SEC coaches call Wednesday.
He also said Allen is ”probably a little bit healthier” as Kelley continues to be limited in practice from what various reports described as turf toe suffered against Coastal Carolina.
Allen said the past four weeks have been frustrating, but his return has given him “new breath.”
LSU’s Caleb Lewis was seen in the scout-team jersey this week during media viewing periods of practice. He's the only traditional, pro-style quarterback the Tigers have other than starter Danny Etling or backup Myles Brennan, so it makes the most sense for him to act out Arkansas plays.
“We have film on both of those guys, and Kelley has been playing the past couple weeks, so it’s not just one game and you think he might do this,” said defensive end Christian LaCouture. “You can see over the last couple of games what his tendencies are. And then of course Austin playing last year and the first couple game this year before he got hurt, you can look at those, as well.”
There’s no doubt in Devin White’s mind who he wants to see under center Saturday.
While they’ve never played each other, the LSU linebacker met Kelley on a recruiting trip to Arkansas in 2014. LSU lost 17-0 on a cold, rainy day, and White didn’t even bother to stay for the full time, choosing to seek drier ground inside.
Kelley was recruited by former LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron but was never offered a scholarship, according to 247Sports.
But that isn’t why White wants a chance at Kelley.
“He’s a great guy. Big guy,” White said. “I figure he’ll be the easier one to take down since he’s so big, so I would like to play against him.”
Both players are considered traditional, pro-style quarterbacks. However, Kelley’s size creates the added dynamic of a player who can pull the ball down and bulldoze his way for a few yards.
He’s bigger than every LSU linebacker, including Arden Key, a potential first-round draft pick consistently lauded for his size and athleticism.
In eight appearances this season Kelley has 74 net yards rushing, but take out sacks and negative carries and he has gained 181, the fourth-most on the team. He also has two rushing touchdowns on 52 attempts.
Kelley improved over the past two weeks, albeit against weaker opponents, but he was limited in practice on Tuesday.
Kelley’s high school coach at Teurlings Catholic, Sonny Charpentier, said his former player was a bit nervous heading into his first start against No. 1 Alabama but feels he has a better grasp on the position with a few games under his belt.
In his first two starts, Kelley threw for 363 yards and a touchdown against Alabama and Auburn, and improved to 453 yards and four touchdowns against Ole Miss and Coastal Carolina. His passing efficiency also jumped from 102.64 to 153.19 between the pairs of games.
“He’s got a good level head on his shoulders and he understands the situation,” Charpentier said. “He’s the kind of guy that thinks every time he goes on the field, he thinks they should win. He doesn’t take a backseat to anybody. His first start against Alabama, I thought he played really well, considering the situation. It’s a hell of a way to introduce him to college football as a starter.”