Hogs hope timing, cold weather on their side vs. No. 20 LSU; more notes
FAYETTEVILLE - Las Vegas oddsmakers trashed the rankings Monday and installed the Arkansas Razorbacks as a 2.5 points favorites over LSU.
Jr RB JONATHAN WILLIAMS
Arkansas plays host to LSU at 7 Saturday night in an ESPN2-televised game at Reynolds Razorback Stadium. LSU (7-3, 3-3 in the SEC) is ranked 20th in the Associated Press poll.
The unranked Razorbacks (4-5, 0-5) have lost 17 consecutive SEC games, dating to the final four SEC games of 2012.
Arkansas second-year coach Bret Bielema is 0-13 in the SEC with only SEC foes LSU, Ole Miss (Nov. 22 in Fayetteville), and Missouri (Nov. 28 in Columbia, Mo.) remaining.
However, Bielema's Razorbacks have played tough for at least a half against their five SEC foes, all ranked in the AP Top Ten when they played Arkansas. Often they outplayed No. 1 Mississippi State, No. 3 Alabama and then No. 10 Texas A&M.
Bielema, like most college coaches, doesn't bring up point spreads but in reply to a media question Monday said, "It's not surprising," given the respect afforded his team.
"Someone had a rating system and we were like the 20th ranked team in the country," Bielema said. "The only team in the whole thing that has a losing record. Sometimes you're the last person to know how really good you are. I've told our guys repeatedly, 'all these other people think so many great things about you, but you haven't reaped the rewards of it. Why wait any longer? Why not take advantage of this opportunity?"
The Razorbacks' opportunity does appear enhanced by scheduling. Not only are the Hogs at home but they come off a bye week, while LSU lost an emotional gut-wrencher Saturday, 20-13 in overtime to Alabama in Baton Rouge, La.
LSU's visit to Fayetteville takes an uncomfortable turn with temperatures in the 20s and even snow in the Saturday night forecast.
So the Walker Pavilion indoor practice facility will remain vacant this week as it was for Sunday night's practice.
"I told the team, 'The weather is getting a little closer to maybe what it will be like next Saturday or this Saturday on game time so we will embrace it," Bielema said. "We went out last night and we will go out Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and embrace the chill. I looked at LSU and they don't have that same weather, which could hopefully benefit us."
Of course those possible Arkansas benefits would decrease by a crowd staying home from the cold.
"We want a live crowd on Saturday night," Bielema said. "If you need to go out and walk around this week in some of the cold weather to get acclimated to show up and be rowdy, I would love it."
Other than possibly reserve offensive tackle/tight end Cameron Jefferson, iffy off an arthroscopic knee procedure two weeks ago, Bielema said the bye week healed the wounded.
"Henre Toliver (the freshman cornerback out since a deep back bruise during the Oct. 18 Georgia game) has been full go since last Tuesday on and has looked really, really good," Bielema said. "A couple of guys that got banged up in that Mississippi State game, (starting linebacker) Martrell Spaight, (starting offensive tackle) Dan Skipper, came back strong. J-Will (starting running back Jonathan Williams) had a really good practice on Sunday. We really should be pretty close to full strength."
FLOWERS TO MOBILE
Bielema's Monday started emotionally since he handed a letter that included a Senior Bowl invitation to senior All-SEC defensive end and defensive captain Trey Flowers of Huntsville, Ala.
The Senior Bowl, played Jan. 24 in Mobile, Ala., is the most prestigious of the postseason all-star games for seniors showcasing their talent to NFL scouts.
"He's pretty special," Bielema said, choking up a bit. "If we get a bonus (a bowl game which Arkansas can achieve winning two of its last three) nobody deserves it more than him."
A now bearding Bielema is among the SEC coaches doing a "No-Shave November 'Stache for Slive" the retiring SEC Commissioner undergoing treatment for prostate cancer.
"My dad was actually a prostate cancer fighter," Bielema said. "So, it's something I hold close to my heart. Our thoughts are with Mr. Slive and the "No-Shave November" to try and raise awareness for prostate cancer and everything that involves."
Saturday's LSU game marks Arkansas' last night game. The Arkansas-Ole Miss kickoff is set for 2:30 pm. on CBS. The Arkansas-Missouri game the day after Thanksgiving kicks off at 1:30 p.m in Columbia, Mo.