Arkansas vs. LSU: Q&A with Death Valley Voice


In advance of Arkansas’ latest hunt for the “Golden Boot,” Razorbackers crossed enemy lines to get a closer look at the LSU Tigers.

Death Valley Voice is the FanSided home of the LSU Tigers, our friendly rivals for this week.  A big thanks to Eric Slater for interviewing Razorbackers earlier in the week and of course, thank you to Cameron Robinson for returning the favor by giving us the following:

Razorbackers (RB):  LSU’s College Football Playoff dreams were crushed with last Saturday’s loss to Alabama. How has the attitude of the fans changed this week?

More from Football

Death Valley Voice (DVV): I think we’re back to what we expected for the season after the twin losses to Mississippi State & Auburn (to a more measured degree, though). After those losses, many expected this to be a 9-3, 8-4 type of year. The Ole Miss win gave everyone hope, but most fans realize now this team won’t reach it’s true potential until 2015. The rest of this year is looked at as just getting more experience for the youngsters.

RB:  Has LSU exceeded expectations to this point in the season? Did fans in the bayou expect the Tigers to be a legitimate SEC championship contender?

DVV: Coming into the year, I think most every level-headed fan expected this to be a year of ups and downs. With so much youth at very important positions, this year set up as a growing period for all of the talented freshmen and sophomores. Of course, LSU expects to be an SEC championship contender every single season, but this was a year where it wasn’t so SEC-title-or-bust. Thus, I think LSU’s right about where most predicted the Tigers would be, more or less.

RB:  Pretend you’re Les Miles for a moment. What do you say to your team in an attempt to move past Alabama and look to Arkansas? What specifically about Arkansas are you preparing for? Are there any significant injuries you’re dealing with?

 DVV: I’m telling my guys that there’s still a lot to play for. LSU is still in excellent position for its 5th straight 10-win season. Go to a great bowl and build momentum for 2015, where LSU could be scary good. Preparing for Arkansas is like preparing for a pre-Kiffinized Alabama: Get ready to go downhill. LSU is going to key in on the inside run game and get Arkansas into obvious passing situations on 3rd down to keep them out of sync. As far as injuries, LSU is still pretty healthy coming out of Alabama, except for middle linebacker Kendall Beckwith. He is nearly the sole reason why LSU has been so much better against the run inside. Beckwith tweaked a hamstring against the Tide, so keeping it from tightening on him in the frigid weather Saturday will be paramount to LSU’s success.

 RB:  It’s that time again for the Les Miles to Michigan speculation. Is there any chance “The Mad Hatter” bolts the bayou for his alma mater after this season?

 DVV: Nope, never, not a chance. For LSU fans, this has become quite the yearly annoyance, if only because we understand he’s not going anywhere. In 2007, I fully believe he was about to become the head coach of the Wolverines, but thanks to Kirk Herbstreit getting the word out too soon, he elected to stay. Michigan, at this point, doesn’t want Miles. He’s over 60 and firmly entrenched at LSU. He may have another 5-7 good years in him, which isn’t long enough to overhaul the Michigan program. I expect Michigan to speak with him, as it would be their due diligence, but Miles will retire in Baton Rouge.

RB:  Anthony Jennings has completed only 40 percent of his passes in the past four games and continues to struggle with accuracy. Is it time for LSU to give Brandon Harris another shot? Which quarterback is better for LSU’s immediate future?

DVV: To your first question, yes, Brandon Harris needs to get worked into the gameplan a significant amount starting immediately. His bungled Auburn start aside, he is at the moment LSU’s best bet for the future. We’ve seen nearly an entire season of Anthony Jennings to know that his development is simply not going to suffice for LSU. As for right now, though, Jennings probably gives LSU the better chance at winning. If we go back to Harris’ awful game at Auburn, he was unable to do simple things such as handing off the correct direction. Jennings, at least, has enough of a grasp of the offense to execute the run-heavy attack LSU is using while minimizing turnovers. That last point is key to the coaches, as Miles abhors (as all coaches do) turnovers. A coach is never going to forsake a game to get a player ready for a game a year in advance, they will always play for the win NOW. That’s why you’ll see Jennings continue to start and get the majority of snaps for LSU. But, given that Jennings is not the answer, Harris should be worked back into the gameplan immediately.

 RB:  What are LSU’s strengths heading into Saturday’s game at Arkansas?

 DVV: Run, run, run. Offensively, it’s an offensive line that’s lived up to it’s preseason hype. They’ve come together to form a fantastic run-blocking line, paving the way for freshman Leonard Fournette, Terrance Magee, Kenny Hilliard, and Darrel Williams. (With the news out today that Hilliard is done for the year, look for Williams to get more carries.) Despite LSU’s obvious inability to pass, few have been able to stop LSU from running lately.

 The defense is beginning to play like a John Chavis defense finally. This unit is getting scary good. The run defense lapses of the early season have largely been solved by replacing middle linebacker D.J. Welter with Kendall Beckwith and the secondary has become the best in the conference. Cornerback Rashard Robinson, who was LSU’s clear #2 CB, most likely will not play for LSU again, though. Jalen Collins is not Robinson, but he’s played much better this year and is better than most corners in the league. Vernon Hargreaves III gets the ink as the best corner in the conference, but I’d have no qualms putting Tre’Davious White out there as his nearest competition, or even as his superior. The LSU defense is going to come at you and play man in the back, daring you to throw the ball. No one has been able to yet.

RB:  What are LSU’s weaknesses heading into Saturday’s game at Arkansas?

DVV: As Arkansas fans who’ve seen Brandon Allen for a while, you know what a bad passing game looks like. LSU simply cannot do anything through the air. If you can play decent enough coverage while stacking the box, the LSU offense doesn’t have the ability to move the ball at all.

I mentioned the LSU run defense has improved, but I’m still not sure how good it is against the run up the middle. We thought Alabama would test it, but Kiffin’s playcalling never really pushed the envelope inside. That interior of the defense will get its test Saturday.

RB:  Who wins this game, what wins this game, and what is your final score prediction?

DVV: The team that can handle the elements and get their running game going efficiently will win this one. The LSU-Arkansas series has been seriously underrated for about 12 years now and I expect another ridiculous, logic-defying finish in Fayetteville. (By the way, does it feel weird to y’all that there’s another regular season game after this?) I think Arkansas is going to find some success running behind their massive offensive line, but I also think LSU is going to be able to lean on a light Hog defensive line late in this one and secure the win­–somehow. There’s been some chatter about LSU being down for this one after an emotional Alabama loss, but I’m not buying it. I think they’ll be ready Saturday night. I would also not be surprised if another miracle happens or a spaceship lands and finally takes Les Miles back to the planet he’s from. It’s LSU-Arkansas, who knows?