LITTLE ROCK — Arkansas at LSU has the feel of Arkansas at Alabama, a mismatch across the board.
Advancing the Oct. 19 game in Tuscaloosa, reasonable goals for the Razorbacks were suggested with the idea that small successes might lead to a victory or two in November. Closing out a three-win season, there is a question about whether anything less than a W on Friday would carry over into recruiting or the preparation for the 2014 season.
However, Plan B — concoction of some numerical targets — is appropriate for a team that appears to have no chance to win.
First on the list at Tuscaloosa was to score twice, a goal resurrected for Baton Rouge. In three home game victories over SEC opponents, only Auburn has scored more than 10. To tally 10 or better, Arkansas must run the ball successfully and that leads to goal No. 2 — rushing for 180 yards or more.
Texas A&M’s offense is all about Johnny Manziel and the Aggies’ running backs are probably not as good as Arkansas’ Alex Collins and Jonathan Williams, but A&M managed only 75 yards rushing in a 24-point loss to LSU last week. However, the Aggies were 41 pass, 18 run whereas Arkansas was 43-17 the other way in last week’s overtime loss to Mississippi State. If the Razorbacks rush for less than 100, the margin will be 30 or more.
On the other side of the ball, the ambitious goal is to limit LSU running backs Jeremy Hill, Terrence Magee, and Alfred Blue to a total of less than 200 yards. Third in the league at 104 yards per game, Hill netted 76 on 14 attempts vs. A&M. Terrence Magee, who didn’t play until the Tigers’ third possession, made 76 yards on six carries in the first quarter and wound up with a career-high 149 on 13 attempts. Recently granted a fifth year of eligibility, Blue also carried 13 times and netted 61 yards.
Mostly, the Tigers just ran over the Aggies who are dead last in the SEC vs. the run. If I heard right, an ESPN commentator said all but five of LSU’s 55 running plays were between the tackles. Continuation of such an approach on Friday will put Arkansas’ already suspect linebackers on the spot and increase the burden on safety Alan Turner who was in on 16 tackles against the much less formidable running attack of MSU in Little Rock. Mostly, the Bulldogs’ two shortish running backs — who averaged 5.9 and 5.3 yards per try — hung out behind their blockers and then scooted outside when Arkansas congregated inside.
Other goals for the Razorbacks:
• Hold Jarvis Landry to four receptions or less and keep his average yards per catch below 14. He has caught five or more in eight games and averaged 14.2 or more in nine games, including 21.8 vs. the Aggies. Considering the Razorbacks’ pass defense, this will be a reach.
• Throw for more than 120 yards. A&M threw for 224, but Manziel attempted 41 passes and completed only 16. As a result of those clock-stopping incompletes, the Aggies had the ball less than 20 minutes. The last time Brandon Allen threw 41 times, he completed 17 at Florida. The Arkansas quarterback attempted only 14 during regulation vs. Mississippi State and netted 115 yards.
• Break even on turnovers. The Razorbacks lost two fumbles against MSU during the first 60 minutes and suffered an interception in overtime vs. one fumble and one interception for the Bulldogs.
Any Arkansas fan who can’t bear to watch the Razorbacks on Friday should tune in for LSU. The Tigers’ offensive line will knock Arkansas back, their wide receivers will get open when needed, the 11 on defense will run like the wind, find the ball carrier quickly, and initiate violence.
The Tigers’ style is what Bret Bielema has in mind for the Razorbacks.
Harry King is sports columnist for Stephens Media’s Arkansas News Bureau. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.