LITTLE ROCK (AP) – The last time Arkansas made it to the Southeastern Conference title game, it needed a last-second touchdown to beat LSU in the regular-season finale to get there.

This year, Arkansas needs no such dramatics.

“We didn’t sneak in this year,” coach Houston Nutt said. “We won it outright.”

The fifth-ranked Razorbacks are already in next week’s conference championship game against Florida, so Friday’s matchup with ninth-ranked LSU will be about fighting to move up in the BCS standings instead of competing for an SEC West title.

Arkansas (10-1, 7-0 SEC) has a chance, albeit remote, to play for the national championship. The Razorbacks are sixth in the BCS standings, but they could jump significantly if they win these next two games against tough opponents.

LSU, on the other hand, has only one more chance to impress before learning its postseason destination. The Tigers (9-2, 5-2) hope to win the Golden Boot – the trophy shaped like a map of Arkansas and Louisiana – for the fourth straight year.

“We’re playing for the Boot and we’re playing to improve our bowl standings,” LSU coach Les Miles said this week. “We’re looking to enjoy a rivalry with the team that has accomplished and taken the West title.”

Arkansas’ last win in the series was in 2002. Matt Jones threw a 31-yard touchdown pass to DeCori Birmingham with 9 seconds remaining to give the Razorbacks a 21-20 win and a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship game.

As exciting as that season was, though, it’s nothing compared to what Arkansas has done this year. The Razorbacks have won 10 in a row since a 50-14 loss to Southern California, and they’ve won seven SEC games for the first time since joining the conference before the 1992 season.

Arkansas hasn’t finished the regular season unbeaten in any league since going 7-0 in the Southwest Conference in 1988.

Heisman Trophy candidate Darren McFadden has rushed for 1,303 yards this year, 84 short of Madre Hill’s Razorbacks record.

“It’s going to be a physical game,” LSU defensive tackle Glenn Dorsey said. “We look forward to going up against the best and we think we’re good against the run.”

The Tigers are allowing 228 total yards a game, the best mark in the nation – and they’re allowing under 75 a game on the ground.

“I know they have a great defense,” McFadden said. “They go out there and they play hard-nosed ball.”

LSU’s offense isn’t shabby either. The Tigers are scoring 33 points a game, and last week JaMarcus Russell and Dwayne Bowe became the school’s most prolific touchdown combination. Russell found Bowe for a tying score in a 23-20 overtime win over Mississippi. The two have combined for 22 touchdowns.

Casey Dick, who replaced Mitch Mustain as Arkansas’ starting quarterback earlier this month, threw for two touchdowns in last week’s 28-14 win over Mississippi State. He benefits from great protection – Arkansas has allowed only six sacks all season and none in the last four games.

LSU’s defense has an SEC-best 36 sacks this season.

“They have a big offensive line that runs the ball well,” Miles said. “They don’t have many sacks because they are seldom in a poor yardage situation, so they are very, very competent on the offensive side.”

This week’s game will be played at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium. The Razorbacks are 20-1 there since Nutt took over before the 1998 season – the one loss was in 2004 to LSU.

This year’s Tigers are used to tough environments. Their other three road games were also against teams in the top 10 at the time – they lost at Auburn and Florida and won at Tennessee.

After all that, LSU has emerged with a chance for a 10-win season – and the Tigers have plenty of pride left.

“We feel like we are the premier team in the West and they are representing the West in the championship game,” Dorsey said. “This will be a big game.”


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.