It's GameDay: Friday Football for Trip to Atlanta
Assoc. Athletic Director/Communications
BATON ROUGE - LSU will be after another historic victory on Friday as the top-ranked Tigers look to become the first team since 1958 to go through a regular season with an unblemished record as third-ranked Arkansas comes to Tiger Stadium for the regular season finale for both teams.
Kickoff between the Tigers and Razorbacks is slated for 1:40 p.m. from what will be an overstuffed Tiger Stadium. It's the first time since 1959 that two teams ranked this high square off in Tiger Stadium. The last time it happened Billy Cannon forever stamped his name into Tiger lore by returning a punt 89 yards for a touchdown as top-ranked LSU beat No. 3 Ole Miss, 7-3, on Halloween Night some 52 years ago.
A year earlier, Cannon led the Tigers to a perfect 10-0 regular season on their way to claiming the national title. The Tigers capped their national championship campaign with a win over Clemson in the Sugar Bowl marking the last time an LSU team went undefeated. Arkansas stands in the way of the 2011 LSU team becoming the first squad in school history to go 12-0.
Prior to kickoff on Friday, LSU will honor its 25 seniors - a group who joined the Tigers for the 2007 national championship and has won 51 games, played in what will be five bowls, and has been ranked in the Top 25 for all but two games of their career.
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Friday's contest will be televised nationally on CBS with Verne Lundquist, Gary Danielson and Tracy Wolfson calling the action. Jim Hawthorne, who has called every LSU football game since 1983, will handle the play-by-play for the LSU Sports Radio Network. He will be joined by former Tiger great Doug Moreau along with former LSU special teams player of the year Gordy Rush on the call.
Lost in all of the hoopla surrounding Friday's game and the impact that the outcome will have on who represents the SEC Western Division in next week's conference championship game is the fact that LSU and Arkansas will also be playing for "The Boot", the 24-karat trophy molded into the shapes of Louisiana and Arkansas. Arkansas maintains possession of the coveted trophy following a 31-23 win over the Tigers last year in Little Rock.
LSU, winners of a nation's best 16 straight home games and 12 consecutive overall, is 11-0 overall and 7-0 in league play following last week's 52-3 win over Ole Miss in Oxford. Arkansas has won seven in a row since dropping a 38-14 decision to Alabama as the Razorbacks have climbed to 10-1 overall and 6-1 in conference action.
"The thing that this team has done is rise to the level of competition and exceeded it," LSU coach Les Miles said. "They recognize that the big stage is a football game. In other words it is lights and cameras and a game of significance, but its 53 yards horizontal and 100 yards vertical. It translates very comfortably into this team. There are plays they need to make and plays they want to make and they make them."
Times of Interest
The LSU-Arkansas game will match the top offense in the SEC against the nation's second-rated defense. Arkansas, which has scored 40 or more points in its last three SEC games, comes to Tiger Stadium leading the conference in scoring (39.3), total offense (463.3) and passing offense (316.9). Arkansas features the league's top rated quarterback in Tyler Wilson, who has thrown for 3,215 yards, 21 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
The Tigers will counter Arkansas' potent offense attack with a defense that ranks second in the nation in scoring (10.0), total defense (247.91) and pass efficiency defense (92.33 rating). LSU is also ranked No. 3 nationally in rushing defense (89.64) and No. 5 in pass defense (158.27). LSU has surrendered only one first quarter touchdown all year and the Tigers have allowed a total of 50 points in their seven league games up to this point.
LSU will look to pressure Wilson with a starting defensive front that has combined for 33 tackles for loss and 16 sacks. Defensive end Barkevious Mingo leads the Tigers with 10.5 tackles for loss and 6.0 sacks, while Sam Montgomery has 10.0 tackles for loss and a team-best 7.0 sacks.
In the secondary, the Tigers will look to slow arguably the best group of receivers in the SEC with a group that features Morris Claiborne, Tyrann Mathieu and Brandon Taylor. Claiborne, with 40 tackles and four interceptions, is a finalist the Thorpe Award, while Mathieu is a finalist for national defensive player of the year. In 10 games, Mathieu ranks second on the team with 58 tackles to go with 5.5 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
Taylor, a senior playing in his final game in Tiger Stadium, leads LSU with 61 tackles.
Offensively, LSU is expected to use a two-player rotation at quarterback in seniors Jordan Jefferson and Jarrett Lee. Jefferson has started the last two games for the Tigers and has performed well in leading LSU to blowout victories over Western Kentucky and Ole Miss.
In seven games, Jefferson has thrown for 446 yards and four touchdowns. Jefferson, who last week became the school's leading rusher by a quarterback, has accounted for 200 yards and two TDs on the ground this year. For his career, Jefferson has rushed for 955 yards and 11 scores.
Other offensive standouts for LSU include a trio of sophomore running backs in Spencer Ware (650 yards, 7 TDs), Michael Ford (625 yards, 7 TDs) and Alfred Blue (445 yards, 6 TDs). Junior Rueben Randle (39 catches, 755 yards, 8 TDs) and Odell Beckham Jr. (33 catches, 410 yards, 2 TDs) led the Tigers in receiving.
Special teams could also play a difference in the game as both teams feature standouts in the kicking game. LSU leads the SEC and ranks fifth nationally in net punting (40.5 yards) as Brad Wing has consistently downed punts inside the opponent 20-yard line. LSU placekicker Drew Alleman has converted 14-of-16 field goals this year.
Arkansas features the top kick returner in the league in Marquel Wade (29.6 yards per return) as well as the best punt returner in the conference in Joe Adams, who has returned three punts for touchdowns and is averaging 16.2 yards a return.
"I have really enjoyed these practices this week," Miles said. "We've worked hard with great focus. We had really good practices on Tuesday and Wednesday. I look forward to lining up and playing on Friday. I think we will play well."