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Sunset Vette

21 Nov

Between The Numbers

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LSU, Alabama, and Arkansas are rated 1-2-3 in the BCS as expected after the mayhem that took place last weekend. Who is really the best team? I though I would play with some numbers and see if there are any indications.

1. LSU is favored by 13.5 points over Arkansas. Someone thinks defense will win this game.
2. Of the top three LSU actually has the toughest strength of schedule (SOS) at 17th. ‘Bama is 23rd, and Arkansas is tied for 65th. (Oklahoma State, which is still 2nd in the computer rankings, is between LSU and ‘Bama with the 20th most difficult schedule. You read it here first: don’t be surprised if Oklahoma State still ends up playing for the national title if they beat Oklahoma in convincing fashion.)
3. Arkansas is #1 in the SEC in total offense, yards per game, passing yards, and first downs per game. However, they’re only 6th in the league in 3rd down conversion, which could indicate trouble against a top defense.
4. LSU is #2 in the SEC in total defense, and is #3 in the league against the pass. LSU goes into the game tied for 2nd with 15 interceptions, including 2 returned for touchdowns. Alabama holds the top spot in many of the defensive categories.
5. Arkansas is rated #1 in the SEC for special teams, as they hold down the #2 spot for punting and #1 for kickoff returns. But I don’t think LSU suffers here, as Brad Wing has performed extremely well for the Tigers and their punting team. They are constantly backing opponents beyond their 20 and in the case of the Alabama game behind even the 10 yard line. There are not many teams that can consistently drive 90 yards against good defenses, much less really good teams like LSU. ‘Bama essentially lost the LSU game due to flaws in their special teams unit.
6. All three teams have played one team from the FCS: LSU beat Northwestern State 49-3 and Arkansas beat Missouri State 51-7. However as a team, Northwestern State has a better record at this point of the season than Missouri State. I don’t think I can draw any effective information from this comparison. Alabama played only one FCS school, defeating Georgia Southern 45-21. It should be noted that Georgia Southern is currently seeded in the top four teams for the FCS playoff.
7. The average winning percentage for LSU’s opponents (excluding Arkansas) is 55%. The average winning percentage for Alabama’s opponents is 59%, and Arkansas’s opponents have won just 46% of their games.
8. LSU is 6-0 against teams with winning records, Arkansas is 3-1 and ‘Bama is 4-1. Of course as everyone knows by now, the lone loss for Arkansas came at home against ‘Bama, and the lone loss for ‘Bama was home against LSU. Hm. That does not bode well for LSU hosting Arkansas. 😯
9. Best non-conference victory: LSU over Oregon at a neutral site, Alabama over Penn State away, and Arkansas over Texas A&M at home. Bonus points to LSU for playing West Virginia away as well. In fact it was this victory that pushed LSU to the #1 spot based on their SOS and overall resume at that point in the season.
10. Best home victory: LSU over Auburn, 45-10. Arkansas over South Carolina, 44-28. Arkansas also defeated Auburn at home 38-14. Alabama’s best home win came against Arkansas 38-14.
11. Best road victory: LSU over Alabama, 9-6 (OT). Arkansas has not won any significant road games so far this season, having lost at Alabama 38-14. Alabama’s best road victory is also their best non-conference victory over Penn State.
12. Significant teams not played: None of these top 3 teams have played Georgia yet this year. Arkansas did play South Carolina, which is the only other ranked SEC team that LSU has not played. Arkansas did not face Florida. Alabama did not face South Carolina.

For LSU versus Arkansas, I think what it comes down to is this: Arkansas lost in their only significant road test so far this season. They have a nice come-back game against Texas A&M but the Aggies have given up numerous fourth-quarter leads this year so that victory is not quite as significant. LSU has faced a substantially tougher schedule this year and should be mentally ready for the final “game of the century” … at least until the following week. I think LSU and Les Miles will be ready for the Hogs on Friday. If nothing else, Les should point to the game several years ago when Arkansas came in and nearly derailed the season with their triple overtime win in Baton Rouge. That year Arkansas featured a trio of running backs named Darren McFadden, Felix Jones, and Peyton Hillis. Last time I checked all three were playing in the NFL. Even after losing that game LSU went on to the SEC championship and the BCS title game. I hope they make the same trip this year without the drama of the triple OT loss.

As I have said multiple times already in other posts, Alabama will already know the outcome of LSU versus Arkansas before they go into the Iron Bowl. If LSU loses, or even if they win, you can be that ‘Bama will be attempting to really roll up the score to (a) impress the voters and (b) avenge the loss to Cam Newton’s team from last year.

If LSU loses, what then? All three top teams will be 10-1, each with a round-robin style loss to another team from the set. LSU > Alabama > Arkansas > LSU and all that. Then it’s up to the voters.

What a mess that will be.

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