College football has reached Week 11 and the SEC Wizard is back to give you betting picks and tips!
Arkansas-LSU, otherwise known as the Battle for the Golden Boot, has been good to coach Bret Bielema in recent years. The Razorbacks won 17-0 in 2014 and 31-14 in ’15, and if Bielema wants to cling to any hope of keeping his job, they’ll need to win again.
That means going to Baton Rouge and knocking off a Tigers team that’s already beaten No. 10 Auburn and outgained AP No. 1 Alabama.
The Hogs need a miracle keep bowl hopes alive. But after overcoming a 24-point deficit at Ole Miss and a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit vs. Coastal Carolina the last 2 weeks, miracles may seem plausible for Bielema’s players.
How Arkansas can win: The Razorbacks came out flat against Ole Miss and Coastal Carolina, then went into aggressive, borderline desperation mode. That’s not going to work against LSU. Arkansas needs to get some scores early and force LSU to pass downfield. With Austin Allen back, the hope for the Hogs is that the offense can be balanced. But the team can’t let Arden Key and LSU’s pass rush decapitate Allen in his first week back, especially with backup Cole Kelley also nursing an injury.
How LSU can win: Batter the Arkansas QB, whomever it is. Allow Matt Canada to do his thing calling plays. LSU has enough athletes on offense to put up a high total in this game without taking too many chances, but it doesn’t want to rely on Danny Etling to come from behind or win a close game. LSU needs to ride Derrius Guice, Russell Gage and D.J. Chark to win 1-on-1 matchups.
Arkansas games have gone over the betting total in 4 of the Razorbacks’ last 5 games. And Arkansas is 2-2 against the spread in its last 4 games after starting 0-5.
Arkansas will be an underdog in 5 of its 6 SEC games once this one kicks off.
Despite an offensive line that can’t pass protect, and despite the fact that this team lost its No. 1 RB and No. 1 WR, not to mention its starting QB for a long stretch, and lost a ton of pass-catching talent last year … Arkansas ranks in the top half of the SEC on offense. The defense, by contrast, is one of the worst in the Power 5. That epitomizes the Bret Bielema era. He hasn’t been able to get things right on both sides of the ball at the same time.
- QB Austin Allen (shoulder) is probable, and just in time. Cole Kelley (foot) is questionable against LSU.
- TE Jack Kraus (head) and TE Cheyenne O’Grady (tailbone) are questionable and probable against LSU, respectively.
- DB De’Andre Coley (ankle) and DB Britto Tutt (knee) are questionable.
- The list of Arkansas players out for the season includes C Frank Ragnow, WR Jared Cornelius, DB Ryan Pulley, RB Chase Hayden and WR Koilan Jackson.
Arkansas engineered back-to-back comeback wins against Ole Miss and Coastal Carolina. The wins almost underscored the team’s struggles this season, especially considering the opposition. The games probably were emotionally taxing, and due to an early bye, this is the seventh consecutive Saturday that the Razorbacks have played.
At 4-5, Arkansas does hold fleeting hope to make a bowl game. Will that be enough motivation here?
Spin it any way you want. Bielema isn’t getting paid $4.2 million per year to play less than .500 football, or to win fewer than 1 out of 3 SEC games. He came to Arkansas wanting to play “bully ball” with huge offensive linemen, and it hasn’t worked. The defense also has remained in a state of constant transition.
It’s highly unlikely Bielema returns to Fayetteville in 2018. Many Arkansas fans would rather see him lose this game, maybe badly, to ensure his ousting.
After missing 4 games due to a shoulder injury, he seems ready to play against LSU. But Cole Kelly has led Arkansas to back-to-back wins, so some think there’s a bit of a quarterback dilemma.
After a fantastic 2016 season, the constant barrage of vicious hits coupled with the loss of several talented pass-catchers made Allen look pedestrian when he did play earlier this year. But he’s a better quarterback than Kelley right now. And Kelley is dealing with his own injury.
Expect Allen to play, and it wouldn’t be shocking to see him spark the offense.
LSU has covered in 3 consecutive games after a 5-game spread losing streak. The Tigers have been a favorite of 17 points or more 3 other times this season, and failed to cover in all 3 games — losing outright to Troy.
LSU ranks just outside the top 25 in F+/-, which I view as the best analytics ranking of college football teams. Yet neither the offense or defense are particularly great statistically. LSU did give up just 23, 24 and 23 points to Auburn (No. 24 in offensive points per possession), Ole Miss (No. 35) and Alabama (No. 6) in the last three outings, respectively.
- OT K.J. Malone (knee) is questionable entering Week 11, Ed Orgeron volunteered Thursday. He isn’t expected to play against Arkansas.
- LB Donnie Alexander, TE Caleb Roddy, G Donavaughn Campbell, LB Sci Martin, CB Xavier Lewis, RT Toby Weathersby, CB Kevin Toliver and OLB Corey Thompson all are listed on multiple injury websites as questionable. But it sounds like all may be expected to play.
LSU put forth a passionate effort in last week’s loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Next week, the Tigers head to Knoxville. Tennessee isn’t great shakes, but in some ways this is a potential let-down spot for the Tigers, who have now lost 3 times.
He can’t recruit with Nick Saban or Kirby Smart, and he’s not the world’s greatest schematics expert. But in interim roles at USC and LSU, and as head coach this year, he’s been able to get his players to go hard — especially after losses and adversity.
Give Orgeron credit for letting Matt Canada run his offense as well after being a little too controlling early this season.
LSU yanked Etling near the end of the Alabama game after a 12 for 26 performance (137 yards, 1 INT). But he’s had some good games this year as well. For example, 14 of 17 against BYU, and 9 of 13 against Ole Miss for 200 yards and 2 TDs.
Expect Etling to remain the starter as long as LSU is playing for today rather than for 2018, and that seems to be the case now. He won’t scare Arkansas, but he’s capable of getting the ball to his playmakers against a below-average defense.
Score: LSU 34, Arkansas 17
I think the line is good, so I’m not looking to play this game. I made the total 51 when I did my handicapping, but Arkansas’ recent proclivity for hitting overs, Allen’s return and the Razorback’s awful defense scares me away from the under.
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