When LSU traveled to Alabama 20 days ago, the game featured two of the best defenses in the nation — if not the best. Knowing that points would be at a premium, both coaches went in with conservative, safe gameplans. The result was a 9-6 overtime war that folks who appreciate football dubbed an instant classic. Those who like pinball and Big 12-style fireworks, yawned.
Today in Baton Rouge, Game of the Century II will feature a real contrast in styles. Just check the numbers for LSU and Arkansas in their conference games only:
SEC Scoring Offense — Arkansas #1 (35.6 points per game) / SEC Scoring Defense — LSU #1 (7.1 points allowed per game)
SEC Rushing Offense — Arkansas #6 (146.7 yards per game) / SEC Rushing Defense — LSU #3 (99.4 yards allowed per game)
SEC Passing Offense — Arkansas #1 (276.6 yards per game) / SEC Passing Defense — LSU #1 (120.3 yards allowed per game)
SEC Total Offense — Arkansas #1 (423.3 yards per game) / SEC Total Defense — LSU #2 (219.7 yards allowed per game)
So what happens when a top offense meets a top defense? You know what usually occurs. And while September was a long time ago, just look at Arkansas’ game with Alabama from the season’s first month for a clue: Crimson Tide 38, Razorbacks 14. Without a running game (19 carries for 17 yards), the Hogs found themselves in long-yardage situations and forced to pass for much of the afternoon. In the end, Arkansas threw 40 passes for just 209 yards (that’s a terrible 5.2 yards per pass attempt) and converted just four of 15 third down attempts (27%).
We don’t expect Arkansas to be throttled in such convincing fashion today as they have improved as the year has played out… but we do expect them to lose. When it’s great defense versus great offense, the safe money is always on the great defense.