For No. 15 LSU, elite status at stake vs. Arkansas
When running back Terrence Magee and his LSU teammates met to review their dominant victory over Texas A&M, offensive coordinator Cam Cameron made a comment about their upcoming contest which got their attention.
“Coach Cam said, ‘When you come out and you play that well, the next week you have to back it up or people are going to say it’s a fluke,’” Magee said Monday, as No. 15 LSU began preparations for Friday’s regular season finale against Arkansas.
“For us, it was no accident,” Magee continued. “We prepared hard, and, you know, you want to peak at the end of the season and I feel like we’re just starting to peak.”
If that’s the case, it’s bad news for the Razorbacks (3-8, 0-7 Southeastern Conference), who hope to close out their season by celebrating the end of a losing streak which has grown to eight games.
Arkansas’ struggles, combined with LSU’s absence from Southeastern Conference title contention, have taken some of the luster off of the rivalry known as “the battle for the Golden Boot.” (The boot is an unwieldy trophy in the shape of the states of Louisiana and Arkansas).
But it remains a meaningful game to the teams themselves for a number of reasons.
Arkansas’ Bret Bielema has never coached in the game, which has traditionally come at the end of the season, right after Thanksgiving — but which will be moved to an earlier date next year. Bielema also has never coached in Tiger Stadium. If he wanted to demonstrate progress in his first season, giving the Tigers a tough test in Death Valley would help.
The coach has done some research, learning that LSU and Arkansas first played more than a century ago, in 1901. He said he also gave his players “a little bit of history lesson.”
“I’m going to try to give them a little bit more on what it means, and hopefully have a bigger impact on the game,” Bielema said, adding that he asked his players to embrace their last days together before the seniors leave for good.
Bielema said he told them to “have fun with it, try to make the most of a very difficult situation and be something that you can remember for a lifetime.”
LSU (8-3, 4-3) still has an opportunity to put coach Les Miles in a special place in school history by making him the first coach to win double-digit games in four straight seasons, something the Tigers say would help preserve the program’s elite status.
“It’s one of those streaks that we’ve got going, one of those positive things,” receiver Jarvis Landry said. “Unfortunately, that doesn’t take away the losses, but to get to double-digit wins speaks a lot about the players, coaches and the program.”
The Tigers 34-10 victory over the Aggies last Saturday, in which they made Heisman Trophy quarterback Johnny Manziel look ordinary, kept alive LSU’s shot at 10 wins — if the Tigers beat Arkansas and win a bowl game.
LSU has been scouted by officials from the Cotton Bowl, the Capital One Bowl, the Gator Bowl and Outback Bowl, among others. LSU is also still technically alive — albeit as a longshot — for the Sugar Bowl, and officials from that bowl have requested credentials for Friday’s game.
Miles was in no mood Monday to discuss bowl possibilities. He answered questions on the subject by saying his focus was purely on planning for Arkansas and making his seniors’ final game in Death Valley one they’d remember fondly.
Beyond that, he said, “I know this — that with victories open opportunities, and it’s just that simple. We’re going to pursue that victory as hard as we can.”
LSU has been listed as more than a three-touchdown favorite by odds makers, but Magee said the Tigers don’t want to hear about how big of an underdog the Razorbacks are.
“It’s their Super Bowl. This is their bowl game,” Magee said. “They’re going to come in and give us everything they got.”