The LSU Tigers can almost taste the BCS Championship game at this point, but there is still other work to be done. Namely, taking on the No. 3 ranked Arkansas Razorbacks, who will aim to shock the world this Friday and hand the Tigers their first loss of the 2011 college football season.
While admitting that there is a whole lot on the line this week, LSU players have taken to expressing a certain confidence about what lays ahead. They respect 10-1 Arkansas, no doubt about it, but they also fully believe that they are the best in the land and relish the opportunity to prove it.
Apparently, winning 10 out of your last 11 games by a double-digit margin (read: 30.4 points on average) will have that effect on a group. (The “Game of the Century” versus the Alabama Crimson Tide was the lone exception).
“We all have just one goal: Get to the national championship. And we don’t think anything can stop us from doing that but ourselves,” LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers told reporters this week.
“We’ve played top 5 teams, top 15 teams, it doesn’t matter,” LSU offensive guard Will Blackwell added. “Regardless of whether (Arkansas) was ranked No. 3 or No. 100, it would still mean the same.
“We’ve got some tough games left ahead of us, but we’ve played a lot of tough games this season and I feel like we’re prepared to take on that challenge, mentally.”
Head coach Les Miles was similarly secure in his team’s greatness.
“We play the style of football that, if we do what we are capable (of), it makes it very difficult on our opponents,” Miles said. “We move the ball efficiently without turnovers. Our defense does not allow an opponent to go down the field routinely. They get turnovers. … It does not surprise me that we have been able to have success.”
That positive attitude is key, especially given the kryptonite-esque role that Arkansas has traditionally played for LSU. Amazingly enough, the Razorbacks have beaten the Tigers in three out of their last four meetings.
But that was then, and this is now. This Arkansas team, although undeniably great, has shown a certain propensity for struggling when playing outside the comforts of home. It needed to rally from a 10-point hole to ultimately defeat the Mississippi Rebels, and similarly needed to muster up a comeback against a woefully bad Vanderbilt Commodores team.
Not that Arkansas is running away from their troubles. In fact, the players are the first to admit that their struggles — including a loss to Alabama — hardened them to the outside noise and shaped them into the unbreakable unit that they have become.
“A lot of people wrote us off there after the `Bama game,” Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette said this week. “We had some ugly wins afterward, but we’re playing well right now and we’re going to stay focused and try to get one more.”
As it stands, the Tigers have won their home games by an average of more than 34 points this season. They haven’t lost a game at home, for that matter, since the middle of the 2009 season. The oddsmakers have them keeping the streak alive, listing them as two-touchdown favorites.
Will LSU stay perfect and knock down the latest obstacle placed in front of them en route to a National Championship? Can Arkansas shock the world and turn an already tospy-turvy BCS on its head?
We’ll find out soon enough.
Get more great sports analysis over at OpposingViews.