Arkansas left to play BCS bowl waiting game
Arkansas ended its season with a flourish on the field, but the Razorbacks must now play the waiting game to find out when and where they'll play next.
Led by Ryan Mallett's 320 yards passing and three touchdowns, No. 8 Arkansas never trailed in a 31-23 defeat of No. 11 LSU on Saturday. The win was the sixth straight for the Razorbacks (10-2, 6-2 SEC) and secured second place in the SEC West, its best finish since 2006.
The win might have also secured a spot for Arkansas in its first BCS bowl game.
Representatives from the Sugar Bowl were in attendance Saturday, and losses by Alabama, Oklahoma State, Boise State as well as LSU (10-2, 6-2) helped Arkansas climb the pecking order.
Arkansas hasn't been to a BCS game since the bowl format was introduced. The last time it was in one of the marquee games was when it lost to Oklahoma in the 1987 Orange Bowl.
The Razorbacks are currently the second-highest ranked SEC team, and the conference has sent two teams to BCS games each of the past four seasons. No. 2 Auburn is already likely guaranteed a BCS spot, so Arkansas likely needs the Tigers to defeat South Carolina in the SEC title game this weekend so that the Gamecocks don't earn a BCS bowl berth.
''They need to win it,'' Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. ''That would be nice.''
The Razorbacks didn't appear in the BCS mix after a 65-43 loss at Auburn on Oct. 16 dropped them to 4-2, 1-2 in the SEC. However, they rallied behind the play of Mallett and the emergence of sophomore running back Knile Davis.
Davis rushed for 153 yards and a touchdown in the win over LSU, capping a six-game stretch during which he rushed for 889 yards and 12 touchdowns.
''(Petrino) is always preaching about finishing,'' Davis said. ''A lot of teams this weekend didn't finish well, you know what I'm saying. ... I think we did a great job of finishing, and I'm proud of the whole team.''
Mallett was sacked four times by LSU, but the junior quarterback had touchdown passes of 85, 80 and 39 yards. They included one after Arkansas got the ball back on its 20 with six seconds before halftime, and another on a fourth-and-3 early in the fourth quarter at the LSU 39.
''He's a great quarterback but they caught us in some bad positions,'' LSU cornerback Morris Claiborne said. ''We were expecting an all-out game, they just made the plays.
''Three big plays were the outcome of the game.''
While Arkansas entered with hopes of a BCS bowl, the Tigers were all but assured of one had they defeated the Razorbacks. LSU was No. 5 in the standings before the game, and Boise State's loss on Friday meant the Tigers would have moved into the top four and an automatic berth.
LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who threw for 184 yards and ran for 34 against Arkansas, didn't sound convinced after the loss that the Razorbacks should be given a BCS spot over the Tigers. Arkansas' two losses this season came to Auburn and Alabama, while LSU lost to Auburn but defeated the Crimson Tide.
''They lost to some of the teams we beat,'' Jefferson said. ''I don't see that falling in their favor.''
Now, LSU must wait and see where it falls in the bowl picture. Possible destinations include the Cotton Bowl or Capital One Bowl.
''This is a good football team,'' coach Les Miles said. ''I haven't felt this way in a while. We'll look forward to playing again. It's not how we want to remember this team, I'll tell you that. ... At this point in time, I just want to play in a bowl. I just want to line up, and game plan and prepare and look forward to playing another opponent.''