LSU’s final week of the regular season is a short one as the Tigers play at Arkansas on Friday afternoon.
That leaves the team with an accelerated schedule to conclude a regular season that players said has gone by pretty fast already.
“You can’t imagine,” safety Eric Reid said before practice Monday. “I feel like we just finished camp. It goes by faster than what you’d think. Spending every day with these guys is something special. It seems like the season always goes by faster than what you would imagine. We know we’ve got to finish it on a good note.”
No. 8 LSU is 9-2 and 5-2 in the Southeastern Conference. It needs a victory against the Razorbacks (4-7, 2-5) to remain in contention for a BCS bowl berth and keep alive their slim shot at playing in the SEC Championship Game on Dec. 1.
The Tigers began working on the game plan for the Razorbacks on Monday, essentially doing what they would normally do on a Tuesday for a Saturday game. This Tuesday will be similar to a normal Wednesday, and Wednesday will be like a Thursday. Then Thanksgiving Day will consist of a team holiday meal, walk-through practice and flight to Arkansas.
“We know we have all those things: a short week, the holiday,” wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said. “You have to maintain focus because this is the SEC. Any given day, any of these teams could beat you, especially going down to Fayetteville, where their fans are going to be fired up for their last game of the season. We have to come out and be prepared.”
LSU will celebrate the holiday as best it can within the context of preparing for an important game 24 hours later.
“We will have a team meal and really kind of celebrate a team family-style of meal where we’ll eat, laugh and enjoy each other’s company,” coach Les Miles said. “And then we’ll practice.”
LSU will try to shore up a pass defense that has allowed more than 300 yards passing in games against Ole Miss and Mississippi State the past two weeks and continue building around a passing offense that accumulated more than 250 yards in both of those games as well as the one against Alabama three weeks ago.
“We’re kind of peaking later in the season, but better late than never, I guess,” quarterback Zach Mettenberger said. “We are clicking offensively, but we want to keep it going for the Arkansas game and the bowl game.”
While many people will be starting their Christmas shopping on “Black Friday,” the Tigers will be finishing their regular-season résumé.
A Tigers victory would keep their hope of repeating as SEC champion alive for at least another 24 hours. On Saturday they would need Texas A&M to beat Missouri and Auburn to pull off a monumental upset by beating Alabama in order to head to Atlanta.
It’s more likely that LSU, win or lose this week, will know it has another game to play a month or so down the road, but it won’t know the details for another week.
“It’s unreal,” said Mettenberger, a junior and first-year starter. “I’ve got one more regular-season game left, then a bowl game, then it’s my last year to play college football.”
But first things first.
Beckham said he hopes to get home to New Orleans on Wednesday night. And Reid, being from Geismar, will have a chance to visit with family.
Others won’t be able to get home, but they’ll still be with family.
“We spend Thanksgiving with our team. They’re our family,” Reid said. “It’s not our immediate family, but it’s our family nonetheless. Coach Miles is going to have a dinner set up for us, and we’re going to celebrate the holiday and get on a plane and go to Fayetteville.”
It’s an unusual week, but one that concludes just as the other 11 have: with the Tigers focused on the business at hand.
“It’s not normal, but I think you get into such a good rhythm throughout the season that you can easily adjust,” tackle Josh Dworaczyk said. “You don’t think about today like a Monday because we’re going to have a Tuesday practice. So you show up today and you have your mind set that this is a Tuesday and Tuesday is going to be a Wednesday and you just adjust to it like that. I think everybody is able to do that.
“Thanksgiving throws a little bump in it. Everybody is off of school, and everybody’s going to be with their family, and you have to be here.”
The unusual week is nothing new for Dworaczyk, a senior who is having his sixth Thanksgiving as a Tiger.
“You eat together as a team, and this is your family right now in Baton Rouge,” he said. “Some of the young guys might not be used to it because you’re so used to those big Thanksgiving meals with your family.
“But then you get on a plane, and you go travel. And as soon as you’re in that suit and you’re on that plane, it’s game day tomorrow, and you’re ready to roll.”