The No. 25 Arkansas Razorbacks (6-3, 2-3 SEC) will travel to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, to take on the LSU Tigers (4-5, 2-4 SEC) Saturday at Tiger Stadium.
The Razorbacks are coming off a thrilling 31-28 victory over Mississippi State. With the win over the Bulldogs, the Hogs became bowl eligible and entered the College Football Playoff rankings for the first time since 2016.
The Tigers went up against the No. 2 Alabama Crimson Tide last weekend and fell 20-14 in a close loss. Despite the loss, LSU head coach Ed Orgeron said he thought his squad was the better team on the field and his players were real competitors.
Orgeron, who led the Tigers to a 15-0 season and a national championship in 2019, will not return to the program after this season. Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman said he thinks the LSU fans will still be serious about the rivalry game.
“It’s what college football’s supposed to be,” Pittman said. “Lot of people. They get lathered and we’re expecting a really good crowd. They support their team. They’ll be there.”
Arkansas sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson has found his rhythm over the past two games, throwing only 11 incompletions in 40 attempts. He has completed 64.2% of his pass attempts for 1,848 yards, 16 touchdown passes and has been intercepted three times on the year. Jefferson has compiled a QBR of 76.2, which is 18th highest in the nation.
Pittman said Monday he did not expect to be favored playing at LSU his second year at the helm of the Arkansas team.
“I've got a strong belief in Arkansas,” Pittman said. “We came here to try to win football games the best we know how. Going to LSU at night and being favored in year two, I probably, honestly, didn't expect that.”
The Tigers, who are 4-5 on the year, will be using a two-quarterback system, playing both sophomore Max Johnson and freshman Garrett Nussmeier. Orgeron noted there is a battle for the starting role after Johnson has had a couple of shaky weeks.
"They're competing, there's definite competition," Orgeron said. "This is gonna come down to who plays best in the game. There's an open competition and you can tell there's a competition. They're both professional about it but you can tell the intensity has been raised a little bit."
Johnson has thrown for 22 touchdowns, six interceptions and 2,169 yards this season. Nussmeier has attempted 26 passes this year, completing 11 of them for 150 yards and a touchdown.
Johnson should not be underestimated, Pittman said. His father, Brad Johnson, had success as an NFL quarterback, leading the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to a Super Bowl victory in 2003.
“He's a competitor,” Pittman said. “His dad played at Florida State, I believe. He's got a really good arm and enough mobility to get away from you. He's capable of scrambling. I remember him out of high school. We tried to get him (when I was) at Georgia.”
Saturday will be the 65th meeting between the two programs. The Tigers lead the all-time series 42-22-2 and have won the past five meetings.
Kickoff is slated for 6:30 p.m. Saturday and the game will be broadcast on the SEC Network. Arkansas is favored by 2.5 points with the over/under at 59, according to College Football News.