Considering their success over the last decade or so, the LSU Tigers generally get the best effort of their opponents.
That may be especially true Friday when No. 8-ranked LSU closes out the regular season at Arkansas in Fayetteville (1:30 p.m., CBS).
The Razorbacks (4-7, 2-5 Southeastern Conference) have been one of the most disappointing teams in the country under interim coach John L. Smith. But they could end their season and the seniors’ careers on a positive note by upsetting the Tigers (9-2, 5-2 SEC).
“This is a very talented Arkansas team,” LSU coach Les Miles said Wednesday during the SEC coaches’ teleconference. “I know it will be a very emotional day. I know there will be some tears as (the seniors) will have looked back at their careers.
“You look at the film and it’s very easy to respect this opponent. They’re very talented, they can defend the run, throw the ball and they have quality special teams. We will have to play well.”
LSU can remain in contention for a BCS bowl, likely the Sugar, by beating Arkansas. A victory would also keep the Tigers alive for the SEC West title, though they would also need a Texas A&M victory against Missouri and a monumental upset by Auburn against Alabama to create a three-way tie atop the SEC West.
“We still have a very strong position,” Miles said. “We have to make sure we do the right things and finish strong and see where that puts us.”
Smith said he’s hoping the Razorbacks can send their seniors out “the right way” with an upset victory against LSU.
“This has been a great class to be a part of,” Smith said. “They’ve been a part of a lot of good things.
“They’ve had a lot of adversity this year and they’ve handled that adversity with class and dignity and done it the right way. It will be an emotional day to see those guys leave.”
Smith cited the Razorbacks’ propensity for committing turnovers — they’ve committed an SEC-worst 29 — as one of the reasons they have squandered numerous good starts in games.
“If we had played every quarter like the first quarter,” Smith said, “it would be a totally different season.”
Miles said after practice Wednesday that offensive guard Josh Williford has been cleared to play but will not be with the team but will not travel with the team because of an unspecified personal issue.
Miles said he expects Williford to be available for the Tigers’ bowl game.
Williford hasn’t played since suffering a concussion Oct. 6 at Florida.
Miles also said he had no new information on tight end Nic Jacobs, meaning he will not play for the second straight game. Jacobs has been held out for violation of unspecified team rules.
It’s early, but Miles said he also doesn’t know whether running back Alfred Blue, who suffered a knee injury Sept. 15 against Idaho, will be able to return in time for spring practice.
LSU set a 5 p.m. Monday deadline for football season ticket holders to get in their orders for bowl tickets.
As of that deadline, the Sugar Bowl led the way with 23,262 tickets requested, followed by the Cotton Bowl with 16,546, according to LSU senior associate athletic director Herb Vincent.
Two other BCS bowls, the Rose and Fiesta, were next with 15,558 and 11,461 ticket requests, respectively. After that were the Capital One Bowl (8,030), Chick-fil-A Bowl (8,012) and Outback Bowl (7,492).
Vincent said more orders are likely to come in from season ticket holders after the deadline, and no requests have yet been taken from non-season ticket holders.
The Tigers will have a brief practice Thursday morning then get together for Thanksgiving lunch before flying to Fayetteville, where they are scheduled to have another brief walkthrough at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
Miles said his Thanksgiving table will be without his wife and kids, who will be traveling by bus to Fayetteville with other coaches’ families.
“It’s the first time my table will have just one diner: me,” Miles said.
Junior college wide receiver Courtney Gardner (6-foot-3, 215 pounds) of Sierra (Calif.) College visited LSU for last Saturday’s Ole Miss game and was apparently ready to commit, though reportedly he still has work to be done to become academically eligible.
Gardner signed with Oklahoma in February but was not academically qualified, leading to his enrollment at Sierra.
According to 24/7 Sports, Gardner is the nation’s No. 4-rated junior college prospect for 2012 and was the No. 2 wide receiver prospect.
LSU already has a junior college wide receiver commitment from Quantavius Leslie (6-4, 190) of Hinds (Miss.) Community College, the nation’s No. 4 junior college wide receiver for 2013 according to 24/7 Sports.
The Tigers currently have 25 commitments for 2013, but will likely be able to back count up to four players to its 2012 class.
Friday’s game will be the 58th meeting between the Tigers and Razorbacks dating back to 1901, with LSU holding a 35-20-2 advantage.
The Tigers hold a 12-8 edge in the series since Arkansas joined the SEC in 1992, including a 41-17 LSU win in Tiger Stadium last year. Despite that, Arkansas has won three of the last five meetings overall.
This will be just LSU’s game in Fayetteville. The only other time was in 1992, when the Tigers got routed 30-6 to finish a dismal 2-9 season.
National bowl projections for LSU:
Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Sugar vs. Clemson.
CollegeFootballNews.com: Chick-fil-A vs. Clemson.
Brad Edwards, ESPN.com: Cotton vs. Texas.
Chris Low, ESPN.com: Sugar (no opponent named).
Stewart Mandel, SI.com: Sugar vs. Oklahoma.
Dave Miller, NationalFootballPost.com: Sugar vs. Oklahoma.
Jerry Palm, CBSSports.com: Sugar vs. Oklahoma.
Mark Schlabach, ESPN.com: Sugar vs. Clemson.
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