The no. 1 LSU Tigers can officially wrap up the SEC West title and take home a trophy this week when they take on the Arkansas Razorbacks. Kickoff is set for 7:00 EST on Saturday, November 23 at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Fans can catch all of the action on ESPN.
According to our Week 13 college football odds, the Tigers are being favored by a whopping 43.5 points at home over their border rivals. The game also has an over/under of 69 points.
There are just a few games separating LSU from a spot in the College Football Playoffs. For the most part, the Tigers have taken care of the tough part, knocking off the likes of Texas and Florida before escaping with wins against Auburn and Alabama in back-to-back games. The Bayou Bengals also avoided a letdown last week, beating Ole Miss last week 58-37. All that’s left for LSU is a pair of home games against Arkansas and Texas A&M before the SEC Championship Game. With a win on Saturday, the Tigers will officially clinch the SEC West title. However, a loss at any point could cost LSU their spot in the top-4, so they need to keep winning.
Meanwhile, Arkansas sits at the other end of the SEC standings. The Razorbacks are in the midst of what can only be described as a disastrous season. Even with modest expectations coming into the season, the Razorbacks have managed to become a disappointment. Head coach Chad Morris was fired two weeks ago following a 45-19 loss to Western Kentucky and former Arkansas quarterback Ty Storey. The only games Arkansas has won this season have come against FCS opponent Portland State and Colorado State. The Hogs are now staring down the barrel of a second consecutive 2-10 season with special teams coach Barry Lunney Jr. handling the interim coaching duties the rest of the way.
Regardless of where LSU and Arkansas sit in the standings, every year they play in the Battle for the Golden Boot, a trophy that resembles the shape of the two border states. Not surprisingly, the Tigers have a substantial lead in the all-time series while also winning six of their last head-to-head meetings with Arkansas. The Razorbacks haven’t beaten the Tigers since 2015, although last year’s meeting was only decided by a mere seven points.
No matter how lopsided this game looks on paper, this is way too many points to swallow. I won’t deny that Arkansas is downright terrible, but surely the Razorbacks will do everything they can to make this game respectable. Also, I don’t think the Tigers will keep their foot on the gas long enough to cover the spread. My guess is Ed Orgeron will get his starters out of the game as soon as he can, preventing LSU from covering 43.5 points.
As bad as Arkansas is, this would be their biggest loss of the season if LSU were to cover the spread. The Hogs lost to both Auburn and Alabama by 41. Both teams benefited from four Arkansas turnovers in each game. It’s hard to imagine things getting much worse for the Razorbacks in those games, which is why this spread is beyond my comfort level.
The one thing that has actually gone right for Arkansas this year has been running back Rakeem Boyd. He has gone over 1,000 yards over his first 10 games and even has eight touchdowns this season. To be fair, both Alabama and Auburn were able to keep him in check. However, he will be a challenge for the LSU defense, even if the Arkansas quarterback situation remains an absolute mess coming out of the loss to Western Kentucky.
Meanwhile, I have one or two concerns about the LSU defense. Obviously, I’m not expecting many points from the Razorbacks in this game, even if Boyd has a productive day. But the Tigers have sometimes struggled to put away bad teams with their defense. Just last week, LSU gave up 37 points against Ole Miss with the Rebels scoring most of their points in the second half. Vanderbilt also scored 38 points against LSU earlier this year. The possibility of the LSU defense giving up garbage-time points is another reason why the spread seems a little too high.
Keep in mind that LSU’s only win by more than 40 points against an FBS opponent this season came in their season opener against Georgia Southern. Even lowly Vanderbilt and Utah State out of the Mountain West kept the final score under 40 points. Granted, Joe Burrow and the LSU offense have put at least 42 points on the board in eight of 10 games. But covering this kind of spread takes complete domination on both sides of the ball.
In the end, I just don’t think LSU will be motivated enough to drop the hammer on Arkansas and cover 43.5 points. Once the Tigers go up by three or four touchdowns, I think they’ll become more conservative and take their starters out of the game. Winning by 40-plus points over Arkansas won’t prove anything, which is why I think there’s a good chance the Razorbacks can at least beat the spread in this game.