OXFORD, Miss. - So many seem so ready write LSU’s epitaph as an undefeated, No. 1-ranked team.
It seems like there isn’t a national-level discussion about the Tigers that doesn’t begin with “if LSU loses to Arkansas” on Friday. For some, the talk is turning to “when Arkansas beats LSU.”
Give the Razorbacks their due. Arkansas beat Mississippi State to pieces on a Little Rock Saturday 44-17, to improve to 10-1, 6-1 in Southeastern Conference play. They’re calling the Hogs a prime cut of national championship contender, and it’s well deserved.
But LSU deserves respect, too. It’s the Tigers who take the No. 1 ranking into Friday’s showdown with the Razorbacks in Tiger Stadium. It’s LSU that will be favored. It’s LSU that is the team the smart money should not bet against.
On a wild college football weekend in a season growing more erratic as it nears the finish line, BCS contenders went up in mushroom clouds all around LSU. Oklahoma State lost at Iowa State. Oregon fell to USC. Clemson was routed at North Carolina State. Oklahoma lost at Baylor.
Meanwhile, LSU traveled here to play an Ole Miss team going on nothing but pride, but pride nonetheless. The Tigers dealt with the Rebels like they were crushing some guerilla revolt, routing them with cold efficiency. It was 21-0 after a quarter, 35-3 after a half and 52-3 at the end, the worst LSU has beaten Ole Miss in 100 meetings.
It got so bad, Les Miles pulled the reins on wild horse sophomore quarterback Zach Mettenberger, having him kneel the ball a virtually unprecedented four straight times after he bootlegged to the 1. It seemed Miles was sending a message to ousted Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt that he didn’t call the run and wasn’t going to try to score again.
Miles can afford such generosity. He has LSU at 11-0 for the first time since 1958 and had already turned its attention to the Razorbacks.
Ah yes, the Razorbacks. Not that comparison scores ever tell the full story, but Arkansas had to rally from a 17-0 first-half deficit here on Oct. 19 to win 29-24. A week later, the Hogs needed a turnover near their goal and a missed field goal to win 31-28 at Vanderbilt.
Since then, Arkansas has scored 44 or more in three straight home wins over South Carolina, Tennessee and Miss. State. LSU has beaten Auburn, Tennessee and now Ole Miss worse than its ever beaten those three schools before.
If that’s true, why is LSU getting little love now? Because the Tigers are old news. They’ve been No. 1 since late September. They don’t advance the story of brewing BCS chaos if they keep winning.
It will be a great matchup Friday, Tyler Wilson and Arkansas’ passing game against LSU’s soul-killing defense. Two top five teams. National title hopes at stake.
But it would be a great mistake to sleep on LSU’s chances. A special team is having a special season, and it’s the Razorbacks who should be worried most.