LSU cornerback Ron Brooks is aware that those who delight in BCS chaos are fantasizing about an Arkansas upset of the top-ranked Tigers on Friday.
Such chatter means little to him, though.
“We don’t live in a fantasy world,” Brooks said. “We live in the real world and we don’t focus on what-ifs and possibilities and what could be.”
Most sports books monitored by SportsOptions have LSU as 12 1/2-point home favorites, with the total set at 52 1/2.
While the unbeaten Tigers (11-0, 7-0 SEC) are showing no lack of respect for an Arkansas squad that has climbed to No. 3 in the national rankings, they’re also expressing supreme confidence in their ability to handle their high-stakes clash with the Razorbacks (10-1, 6-1) in the same way they’ve handled every other game this season.
“We all have just one goal: Get to the national championship. And we don’t think anything can stop us from doing that but ourselves,” LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers said.
If LSU were to lose, it would become one of a half-dozen or so one-loss teams hoping to find a way into the BCS national championship game in New Orleans on Jan. 9.
Adding to the intrigue of the latest matchup is the fact that LSU has struggled against Arkansas in recent years, losing to the Razorbacks in three of the last four meetings, including a triple-overtime setback in 2007, when the Tigers were on their way to their last national title.
Yet, the 2011 LSU team has been on a historic run of dominance. Not only are the Tigers 11-0 for the first time since 1958, but they’ve also won 10 games by double-digit margins.
Throw out LSU’s 9-6 overtime triumph at Alabama earlier this month, and the Tigers’ average margin of victory in their other 10 games is 30.4 points. That includes a 13-point victory over Oregon on a neutral field (Dallas) and a 26-point victory at West Virginia.
“We play the style of football that, if we do what we are capable (of), it makes it very difficult on our opponents,” coach Les Miles said. “We move the ball efficiently without turnovers. Our defense does not allow an opponent to go down the field routinely. They get turnovers. … It does not surprise me that we have been able to have success.”
LSU has won its home games by an average of 34.4 points this season, and its overall winning streak in Death Valley stands at 16 games, dating to the middle of the 2009 season.
That might explain why the Tigers do not seem all that nervous about the prospect of hosting the third-ranked team in the nation.
“We’ve played top 5 teams, top 15 teams, it doesn’t matter,” LSU offensive guard Will Blackwell said. “Regardless of whether (Arkansas) was ranked No. 3 or No. 100, it would still mean the same.
“We’ve got some tough games left ahead of us, but we’ve played a lot of tough games this season and I feel like we’re prepared to take on that challenge, mentally.”
Oddsmakers seem to agree, having listed LSU as two-touchdown favorites.
Arkansas’ path to 10-1 has been a little shaky at times, particularly away from home.
The Razorbacks had to rally from a 10-point halftime deficit to win by five at Mississippi, where LSU had a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and won by 49. Arkansas also had to come back against a 5-6 Vanderbilt squad and narrowly beat Texas A&M, 42-38, in a neutral-site contest in Dallas.
Arkansas’ lone loss at Alabama was by more than three touchdowns, but that was back in September, and the Razorbacks say they’ve improved since then.
“A lot of people wrote us off there after the `Bama game,” Arkansas defensive end Jake Bequette said. “We had some ugly wins afterward, but we’re playing well right now and we’re going to stay focused and try to get one more.”
LSU has only trailed in parts of two games, fewer than 20 minutes combined all season. LSU’s victory over the Crimson Tide, in which they trailed 6-3 for the first 47 seconds of the final period, is the only triumph that would qualify as a fourth-quarter comeback.
For the overwhelming majority of the season, LSU has led, and by a lot.
The Tigers often talk about being “a dominant team.” Brockers said he does not believe LSU players are cocky, but know they have a lot of talent and high expectations.
“I feel like dominance is more of confidence,” Brockers began, “confident in what you’re doing, confident in playing fast and confident in you knowing that you’re better than the guy on the other side of the ball.”