Rarely is this much on the line in the annual clash between Arkansas and LSU. Not that the teams routinely come into this game with neither one having much to lose; instead, they often come into the game with one contestant having their entire season riding on the outcome, with the other one waiting to knock them off the perch.
This year is different. Arkansas' best and last chance to get into the SEC Championship Game and perhaps even the national title bout is to win Friday. Anything less will render the outcome of the Auburn-Alabama game meaningless to the race for the SEC West and could all but cement a rematch between the Tigers and the Tide if Alabama takes care of Auburn.
And a loss would be an enormous roll of the dice for LSU -- one, in fact, that even as lucky and canny a gambler as Les Miles might lose. Nothing is certain with the bizarre system that is the BCS, but an LSU loss would almost certainly send Arkansas to the SEC Championship Game if Alabama were to lose on Saturday, while a loss paired with an Alabama win would send the Tide to Atlanta instead.
In other words, neither of these teams is likely to get a second chance. About the least likely scenario out there -- though it still could happen -- is an Arkansas-LSU rematch in the BCS National Championship Game. This one matters, more so than ever before.
For LSU, the question is whether its defense can close down Arkansas' high-octane attack. The Razorbacks' record against the best defenses in the nation has been uneven. The Hogs managed only 226 yard of total offense against Alabama, got a pedestrian (by their standards) 388 yards in a narrow win against Vanderbilt and rang up 435 yard in a shellacking of South Carolina -- the three defenses that rank in the NCAA's top 20 total defenses that Arkansas has faced.
And scoring points in Arkansas' key in this one. If the Razorbacks can turn this game into a shootout, they have a decent chance of pulling the upset. It's not clear how well LSU's offense will hold up in a game if the defense and special teams are contained; Arkansas would be well advised to try to be the first team to solve that mystery.
In the end, I think LSU's defense is probably just too much, and the team has likely gone just too far. It'll be a close game, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if Arkansas came up with the win. But for now, the guess here is that the Mad Hatter gets the first undefeated regular season in an unconventional career.
LSU 31, Arkansas 28