LSU, Arkansas no strangers to close finishes
Very little has separated Arkansas and LSU the past five years.
More of the same is expected Saturday when the No. 6 Tigers (10-1, 6-1 SEC) travel to Little Rock's War Memorial Stadium to face the No. 12 Razorbacks (9-2, 5-2).
Each of the last five games between the two schools has been decided by five points or fewer, with LSU winning three of the five. Two of those have gone into overtime: Arkansas' 50-48 triple-overtime win over the then-No. 1 Tigers in 2007 and LSU's 33-30 win last season.
The Razorbacks have won two of the last three, during which the cumulative scores for both teams is 111-111.
''That's part of this rivalry,'' Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette said. ''It's a hard-fought game every game. It's always decided by a few points, and we're expecting nothing less than that on Saturday.''
The game has had national implications during the past five years, including 2007 when LSU rebounded from the loss to win the national title. This year is no different, with both teams harboring hopes of a BCS bowl game.
''We all understand what's at stake,'' Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino said. ''I don't want to sit up here and try to say that we don't know what's at stake.
''Yeah, we all know the scenarios. If it plays out right, we get to do this, we get to do that. But the main thing is if we don't go play well, perform well, get one more point on the scoreboard than they do, then nothing matters.''
With only a loss to undefeated Auburn on its resume this season, LSU can likely secure a BCS berth with a win over the Razorbacks. A win on Saturday would give the Tigers 11 victories for the sixth time in school history, the fourth under Les Miles in his six seasons as coach.
LSU salvaged its BCS hopes last week when it rallied for a 43-36 win over Mississippi. The harrowing win was business-as-usual this season for the Tigers, who have won six games by a touchdown or less and have caught plenty of grief for their narrow escapes along the way.
The Ole Miss win featured a breakout game for LSU quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who was 13 of 17 for 254 yards. He also ran for 45 yards and guided the Tigers on three fourth-quarter touchdown drives.
''It's been an amazing season,'' LSU receiver Russell Shepard said. ''We've taken a lot of hits not only locally but nationally you know, from our head coach to our quarterbacks to our fan base, and the Bayou Bengals are still rolling baby.
''Everybody seems to hate the Tigers, but the Tigers keep pulling through.''
Arkansas, which is likely in need of help from others in its quest for a BCS game, is coming off a double-overtime win at Mississippi State. The Razorbacks have lost only to Auburn and Alabama this season, and junior quarterback Ryan Mallett has thrown for more than 300 yards in a game eight times. Mallett has 27 touchdown passes and nine interceptions.
''We're looking to get to 10 wins,'' Mallett said. ''Obviously, we wanted to get to 12 before the regular season was out and that's not feasible right not. We're trying to get to 10, and wherever they put us is where we'll go. But this is the biggest game of the season this week.''
Whichever team wins will earn the Golden Boot, a trophy shaped like the two states combined. Saturday will mark the 15th time the schools have played for the trophy, and Miles would like to keep it in Baton Rouge.
''I can tell you that since I've been here, the Arkansas-LSU game has been tremendously contested,'' Miles said. ''Every game has always come down to the back end. Every game has had big plays, and I can't imagine it will be any different (this year). I promise you when it comes to the challenge of keeping that trophy, that's something we want to have happen.''
AP Sports Writer Brett Martel in Baton Rouge, La., contributed to this report.