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Thursday, November 22, 2012
Five storylines: LSU at Arkansas

By Gary Laney

Zach Mettenberger
LSU quarterback Zach Mettenberger will aim to exploit Arkansas' suspect pass defense.
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Back in August, an LSU at Arkansas game the day after Thanksgiving looked like a pretty sexy matchup of top-10 teams. But then the Razorbacks' season happened. Far from a Top 10 team, Arkansas comes into its season finale at 4-7. LSU is 9-2 and still hoping for a BCS bowl and even with an ever-so-slight chance at the SEC championship. Here are five storylines to watch:

1. The search goes on: John L. Smith has held out hope that he'd stay on as Arkansas' head coach. Not likely. He was hired for 10 months and $850,000 in April after Bobby Petrino was fired for lying about an extramarital affair. Smith inherited a Top 10 team, but has seen it go off the rails in a season where injuries and other issues have resulted in what he called "a perfect storm" of problems. They won't likely be his problems for long. The big question is, when does Arkansas make it official? Right after the game?

2. Ten-win season? LSU (9-2, 5-2) is looking for its third straight double-digit win season and sixth in eight seasons under Les Miles. With help, the Tigers could also end up in a BCS bowl and there's a slight chance, with help from an Auburn upset of Alabama on Saturday, that the Tigers could win the SEC West and advance to the SEC championship game in Atlanta. It wouldn't be entirely accurate to say LSU is playing for either a BCS bowl or an SEC title because the Tigers could win and get neither. But lose, and the Tigers get none of it.

3. Good passing, bad defense: Arkansas quarterback Tyler Wilson leads the SEC in passing (302.8 yards per game) and receiver Cobi Hamilton is the league's top receiver (80 catches, 1,237 yards, 5 TDs). Meanwhile, LSU has struggled in pass defense since its bye week, giving up 261.7 yards a game during the last three games -- numbers that, if extended over the entire season, would make the Tigers 12th in the conference. Could Wilson have a huge season finale?

4. Good passing, bad defense, part two: Arkansas is last in the SEC in pass defense, having allowed 292.1 yards per game and 23 touchdowns. Since LSU's bye, quarterback Zach Mettenberger has thrown for 284.3 yards a game during the Tigers' last three outings, numbers that would make him third in the SEC if projected over the entire season. Since the bye, receiver Jarvis Landry has averaged seven catches a game (which would be third in the SEC if projected over the season) for 81.7 yards per game (which would be fifth in the SEC over the entire season). Could Mettenberger get in a shoot-out with Wilson?

5. Maybe Fayetteville is nicer? The last nine Arkansas home games against LSU have been in Little Rock, Ark. The Tigers will be visiting Fayetteville for the first time since 1992. The Tigers might be happy for the new scenery. Arkansas won five of its last seven games against LSU in Little Rock, including the last two.