FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas will head to Baton Rouge to take on No. 12 LSU on Saturday with the home team a 17.5-point favorite.
Both teams are 2-1 on the season. But they took different paths to get there. LSU lost its season opener to Florida State 45-24. Arkansas lost to BYU 38-31 last Saturday night in Razorback Stadium. The Razorbacks had a 31-21 lead before surrendering the final 17 points to BYU.
Here’s five keys for Arkansas to get a win.
Cut Down on Penalties
Arkansas had 14 penalties last week. It’s somewhat of a miracle the Hogs still had a chance to tie the game or win it on the final drive. When you commit 14 penalties you don’t really deserve to win. Some of the penalties were bad calls. Before someone starts this don’t blame the refs, I am not blaming the refs, but after the AutoZone Liberty Bowl where an official’s call was later overturned don’t try to convince me they don’t make mistakes. Not sure if the mistakes are intentional or not, but regardless there was some bad calls in that game. The best I could tell most, maybe all, the holding calls were legit and that is enough to cost Arkansas any chance at winning. Bad refs, great refs, whatever, Arkansas has to cut down considerably the number of penalties it has if it wants to win games going forward. They had four against Kent State and that is a more manageable number.
Special Teams Be Better
Isaiah Sategna had an 88-yard punt return for a touchdown. That was huge for the special teams. But Cam Little missing a 49-yard field goal and Max Fletcher with 10- and 28-yard punts were all very costly. Fletcher can boom the football and has been very consistent this season until Saturday. Those short punts helped swing the momentum. Kickers miss 49-yard field goals, but in a tight game that is a tough break. Little is very capable of making that kick over and over. Arkansas needs to have good special teams play in Baton Rouge.
The Hogs had avoided turnovers until Saturday night. They had two while getting one from BYU. Arkansas needs a clean game in that area on Saturday and try to create a couple by LSU. Arkansas’ defense scored touchdowns in the first two games and they could use that against LSU. That will be hard against LSU’s Jayden Daniels though.
Get AJ Green More Carries
AJ Green had nine carries against BYU with three of those coming on the first drive. With Rocket Sanders out it seems that Green is the one spark in the running game. He had a 55-yard touchdown sprint in the first series for a quick 7-0 lead. Green needs 15-or-so carries unless some other running back is going to step up his game. Green has improved off 2022 season, but not all the running backs have done that.
Win Third Down Battles
Daniels is one of the best at keeping drives going on third down while Mekhi Wingo, Harold Perkins and others help LSU get off the field on third down. LSU is 23-of-40 (57.5%) on third down offensively. The Hogs are 17-of-40 (42.5%) on third-down efficiency. Even on fourth down it would be nice to see the Hogs put KJ Jefferson under center instead of running delayed hand off out of the shot gun.
There’s many other factors that Arkansas needs to do to win, but do these five and the odds go up considerably.