The Arkansas Razorbacks had a week off. What did they do at this late stage of the season… other than gain badly needed rest?
We will find out against LSU.
By Matt Zemek
The Razorbacks aren’t expected to win any of their remaining three games, which would sink them to 2-10 overall. There is an acute need to avoid double-digit losses in Fayetteville. Even for a first-year coach, and even in an SEC West with Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn, and Jimbo Fisher, a 2-10 season would rate as a disaster for Chad Morris. This season was never supposed to be this horrible. The especially burdensome and depressing aspect of a 2-10 record is that Arkansas could improve by three games in 2019 and still miss a bowl game. The floor could fall so severely that this team’s 2019 ceiling could be one inch above sea level… and no higher.
The Razorbacks and their fans can’t expect a complete transformation, but finding a way to win at least one of these final games would give the Hogs an SEC win and a tangible sign that they are capable – now – of achieving at a higher level than many people currently perceive. If Arkansas can raise its floor before this season ends – not measured by almost-wins, but by actual wins – the 2019 outlook, though not bright, will at least become something less than pitch-black.
Let’s see what this team can do against LSU:
1 – RESOLUTE AGAINST THE RUN
The Razorbacks’ first priority in this game has to be run defense. The LSU formula for success is based on being able to hammer the ball between the tackles. Running effectively takes all the pressure off quarterback Joe Burrow, a solid but hardly spectacular quarterback who does not thrive on obvious passing downs and needs favorable down-and-distance situations to guide the Tigers’ offense at a high level. If Arkansas can’t stop the running game, LSU’s lack of a downfield passing game won’t matter. LSU can get second and short or third and inches and win with a low-risk game plan. Arkansas has to play LSU’s offensive line to a standoff – it doesn’t have to win the matchup, but it can’t lose the matchup, either.
2 – THE BIG PLAY
The LSU secondary did quite well to hold Tua Tagovailoa and the rest of the Alabama offense to 29 points. The Crimson Tide have been ringing up huge numbers this season. LSU, by comparison, was better than the other defenses Bama had faced earlier this season. This is a strong defense with a quality secondary. It will represent a very tough test for the Arkansas offense.
This doesn’t mean the Arkansas offense should shy away from attacking the LSU back line. The Razorbacks have to seek the big play – not to the point of recklessness, but without fear.
Morris and his staff need to find ways to get chunk plays against the LSU defense. LSU is too strong to allow 14-play, 80-yard marches. The big play will also remove the need for Arkansas to have to handle the red zone. LSU’s red zone defense has been very good this season.
3 – SCREENING
The screen game destroyed Arkansas’ defense against Vanderbilt. Coordinator John Chavis has to have his players ready to defend this play.