This Saturday, the No. 19 LSU Tigers travel to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium to take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in what has come to be known as the “Battle for the Boot.”
In last year’s battle, the Hogs ran wild against a sluggish Tiger defense, with running back Alex Collins leading the surge for the Razorbacks as they topped the Tigers 31-14.
Now, LSU (5-3, 2-3 SEC) is coming off a stinging 10-point loss to No. 1 Alabama in Baton Rouge, while the Hogs (6-3, 3-3) roll into this season’s matchup full of confidence after dismantling then-No. 11 Florida, 31-10, last week in Fayetteville.
In the Tigers’ highly anticipated matchup against Alabama, Leonard Fournette rushed for just 35 yards on 17 carries.
Surprisingly enough, that’s an improvement from last year’s performance, when Fournette gained only 31 yards on 19 carries.
Now, Fournette will have to charge into a Hog defense that held the Gators to just 12 —yes, 12— rushing yards on 14 touches last week.
His Razorback counterpart, Rawleigh Williams III, will look to have another strong showing.
Williams faces an LSU defense that kept a potent Crimson Tide offense under wraps for most of the evening last Saturday. Last week, Williams recorded a 148-yard, two-touchdown performance against the Gators.
With Williams’ running game forcing Florida’s defense inside, the Razorback’s aerial attack —led by quarterback Austin Allen— was able to open up a bit more, as wideouts Drew Morgan, Devwah Whaley and Jeremy Sprinkle all posted solid performances.
To have a boost like that at running back is special, especially in the SEC. Williams will need to come up big again this week against Arden Key and the rest of the Tigers’ aggressive defensive line.
Key holds down the No. 3 spot in sacks in the SEC this season, trailing only Tennessee’s Derek Barnett and Auburn’s Carl Lawson. Meanwhile, LSU’s Kendell Beckwith is the second-leading tackler in the conference, showing just how strong the LSU defense is. To put it simply, Arkansas needs a near-flawless offensive performance to come away with a win Saturday.
On the other hand, the Razorbacks also have several defensive playmakers, most notably line backer Brooks Ellis and defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr., who is ranked 10th in the conference in sacks.
While a strong, yet ultimately unsuccessful outing against the Tide certainly raised some questions, a victory against an upbeat Razorback squad would inject some confidence back into the Tigers, and it would also give LSU’s administration another reason to consider keeping Ed Orgeron around full time.
This year’s “Battle for the Boot” will kick off at 6 p.m. CT, The matchup will be shown on ESPN.
Bret Bielema will have his Hogs looking for a fight in this one, and they’ll certainly get it in the form of Leonard Fournette. Both teams have looked abysmal and amazing at different times throughout the season, but both seem to be playing their best football heading into this game. Look for Fournette to have a big day against a weaker Razorback defense, as he will be the difference-maker despite a strong day for Williams. LSU will roar back to life in this one, taking down the Hogs, 28-14.
Edited by David Bradford
Featured image by Chris Parent