Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson. (Associated Press)
Last Modified: Thursday, November 22, 2012 8:04 PM
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. — There are some things LSU just can’t control, but whatever hopes and dreams the Tigers still have for this season revolve around getting a victory today against Arkansas.
That’s Job One. Then the Tigers can sit back and let the rest of it sort itself out.
“We don’t control our own destiny,” head coach Les Miles said. “But there are some destinations that this football team would love to be a part of.”
The Tigers (9-2, 5-2 Southeastern Conference) could theoretically reach the SEC Championship game if Auburn were to pull off the upset of the century Saturday against Alabama.
Beyond that fantasy, LSU’s postseason could conceivably end up anywhere from the Sugar Bowl to the Cotton Bowl to several more notches down the holiday food chain.
“Overall, we need to finish,” Miles said. “We need to make sure that this season we operate like we have said we would and turn out to be the best team that we can be and to be a dominant team … that’s the goal: to play best, to improve and to see where this season puts us.
“We just need to go out there and play our game.”
On paper, that looks like a mismatch.
Arkansas (4-7, 2-5 SEC) with interim head coach John L. Smith presumably coaching his last game, comes in ranked 13th in the SEC in total defense and dead last in pass defense. The Razorbacks will be up against an LSU offense that has perked up in recent games with the emergence of quarterback Zach Mettenberber, who comes in with three consecutive games of 250 or more yards passing.
“Athletically, if there’s a better team in the country, I’d like to see them,” Smith said of the Tigers. “The difference from early (in the season) is they struggled a little, particularly offensively, but when they had to, they ran the football. Now the addition of the quarterback and the play they’re getting out of him makes that a double-edged sword. And everybody knows how athletic they are, can run on the outside.”
The Razorbacks, who started the season ranked in the top 10, have been one of the season’s biggest disappointments — never really recovering from an early season upset loss to Louisiana-Monroe — and have lost their last three conference games.
“I think they’re a talented team,” Miles said. “When you watch their film, you can see why they were ranked in the top 10 to start the season, and they’re still there. The quality players have played hard.”
The Razorbacks’ first setback came in April when head coach Bobby Petrino was fired after admitting to an improper affair with a woman he recommended for a job in the athletic department.
Smith was brought in as an interim head coach and, with this year’s struggles, will surely be replaced after today.
“I’m thankful for the opportunity,” Smith said. “It has not worked like I would have liked. So I’m a little regretful that I wasn’t able to give them more wins.”
“John L. Smith was in a tough position, but I’m sure he’ll have them ready,” Miles said.
“It is very difficult for me, having not been involved on their campus and their team,” Miles said when asked what went wrong with the Razorbacks’ high expectations. “The only thing I can tell you is that they seem to play better, with enthusiasm and with emotion. I see talent there when I watch the film. We have to play well and understand that we will be challenged.”
Arkansas can throw it around some, which could be a problem for an LSU defense that has been leaking passing yards, having surrendered more than 300 in each of the last two games.
Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson is the SEC’s leading passer and he has the league’s leading receiver in Cobi Hamilton.