College Football Odds & Picks for LSU vs. Arkansas: Betting Value Sits With Razorbacks
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images. Pictured: LSU running back John Emery Jr.
- Arkansas has been a favorite team of bettors across the country this season, and it will host defending national champion LSU on Saturday.
- Sam Pittman's squad has impressed on a number of levels this season, but will it be enough to knock off the Tigers.
- Roberto Arguello breaks down how he's betting this game through analysis below.
LSU vs. Arkansas Odds
|LSU Odds||+0.5 [BET NOW]|
|Arkansas Odds||-0.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-105/-115 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||64.5 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Saturday, noon ET|
An impressive 14 LSU players were selected in the 2020 NFL Draft, tying an NCAA record for most players chosen from a team in a single year.
Needless to say, that was a lot of big losses for the Tigers’ program.
However, when you add in players who were expected to contribute this season but chose to opt out of the season, plus some key coaching departures, you have the makings of difficult LSU campaign.
And that’s exactly what has happened down on the Bayou so far.
LSU, the defending national champion, started its campaign with an embarrassing home loss to Mississippi State, in which quarterback KJ Costello threw for an SEC-record 623 passing yards.
Subsequently, the Tigers suffered similarly embarrassing losses, giving up 45 points to Missouri and, most recently, getting dealt a 48-11 blowout loss to Auburn three weeks ago. Their lone victories came against South Carolina, which fired its coach this week, and winless Vanderbilt.
Last year, these SEC West foes faced off, with LSU kicking off as a whopping 42-point favorite. However, this time the Tigers visit Fayetteville, Ark., as just two-point favorites.
The Razorbacks entered 2020 having lost 18 consecutive SEC games, but they’ve already won three conference games in seven tries. Arkansas is 3-0 against teams outside of the current Top 25, but 0-4 against current ranked teams (although the loss at Auburn remains due to an exceedingly questionable call).
This Arkansas team has proven to be a league barometer, distinguishing good SEC teams from others. Expect this trend to continue in this latest meeting.
With starting quarterback Myles Brennan out for the season (abdominal/hip), LSU is searching for an answer at the position. Freshman TJ Finley impressed in his first appearance, which came in a resounding win against South Carolina. Brennan threw for 265 yards, completing 17 of 21 passes for two touchdowns and an interception.
A simple game plan sufficed against South Carolina, with a dominant performance by the offensive line and rushing attack making Finley look great. Unfortunately for the Tigers, he regressed in his second start, with Auburn stifling the offensive line and running game.
Finley completed 14 of 23 passes for 143 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He was replaced by fellow freshman Max Johnson after his second interception and Auburn leading, 28-3, in the third quarter.
Johnson had a better outing than his predecessor, throwing for 172 yards and leading LSU on its only touchdown drive.
The Tigers then entered their bye week with a competition for the starting job, but COVID-19 issues throughout the team canceled practices. Johnson was one player who tested positive, which left Finley as the lone quarterback practicing for more than a week.
Consequently, Finley is the de facto starter this week, but Johnson is expected to receive playing time as well.
Despite the quarterback carousel, wide receiver Terrace Marshall Jr. has been dominant. Before the season, LSU lost Ja’Marr Chase, the reigning Biletnikoff Award winner — given annually to the nation’s best receiver — when he opted out, but Marshall has stepped in nicely as the Tigers’ top receiver.
Marshall has nine receiving touchdowns, which lead the SEC, and his 108 receiving yards per game ranks fourth in the conference.
After struggling at Auburn, the offensive line has reason for optimism as starting left tackle Dare Rosenthal returns from suspension after violating team rules. As of Thursday, Rosenthal had been practicing with the second team and is expected to play Saturday in some capacity.
If Rosenthal can be a meaningful contributor, look for LSU to hammer the left side of the line on run plays behind him and star left guard Ed Ingram.
Defensively, the Tigers have struggled by shooting themselves in the foot via missed assignments. Despite their last two games being a blowout win and blowout loss, LSU allowed big gains on the ground and through the air on each occasion.
South Carolina rushed for 8.8 yards per carry and 185 yards after adjusting for sacks, and Auburn ran for 4.7 yards per carry en route to 206 rushing yards. The Tigers have allowed an average of 17.8 yards per reception over that span.
Coach Ed Orgeron started LSU’s preparation for Arkansas at the beginning of Alabama week, knowing that the game against Alabama was unlikely to be played due to the number of LSU’s COVID-19 absences. This gives LSU a leg up on fixing defensive miscues and scheming for Arkansas, which was just routed by Florida.
The Razorbacks’ offense is led by former Florida quarterback Feleipe Franks. The graduate transfer has impressed coaches and peers with his competitiveness, as he was named a captain before the season. Franks hasn’t wowed with big numbers via the air or ground, but he has been consistent (QBR of 67 or better in five of seven games, including three in a row) and avoided big mistakes.
Franks has taken some sacks by holding onto the ball, but hasn’t forced it into risky spots. He has just one interception (on a tipped ball) in his last six games, and his 16-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio has helped the Razorbacks accumulate the third-best turnover margin (plus-8) in the country.
The Arkansas offense will attempt to put the pressure on LSU’s defense to make plays instead of beating itself. The Razorbacks often throw short passes to set up specific players to make plays against different looks.
In terms of Arkansas passing, 37% of throws have been at or behind the line of scrimmage, and the offense will repeatedly test the mistake-prone LSU defense and be disciplined in gaps ,as Arkansas is 11th nationally in adjusted pace. Look for Franks to find standout receiver Treylon Burks, who leads the team with 34 receptions for 508 yards and five touchdowns.
Defensively, Arkansas has been your quintessential bend-don’t-break unit. It ranks just 77th in Stuff Rate and 97th in Sack Rate, but limits explosive plays and scoring chances in the red zone. Arkansas leads the country with 13 interceptions and ranks fourth with 16 forced turnovers.
Betting Analysis & Pick
With either quarterback, LSU’s offensive line will determine its success against Arkansas. The Tigers have won at the line of scrimmage twice — it rushed for 5.0 yards per carry at Vanderbilt and 5.1 YPC against South Carolina — leading to victories in both games.
Conversely, the Tigers have rushed for 2.1 YPC against Mississippi State; 2.5 YPC at Missouri; and, 1.2 YPC at Auburn in three defeats.
If LSU triumphs, it will be because the offensive line won at the line of scrimmage against the Arkansas defensive line. If the Tigers can run the ball to open up enough space for Marshall, the potential first-rounder and his teammates have a chance to overcome their poor defense.
Despite sharp money favoring the Tigers and moving the line from Arkansas -1.5 to LSU -2 , I like the value of the Razorbacks to win at +120 and down to even money. I trust Franks to make good decisions and avoid costly mistakes against an inconsistent opposing defense.
LSU has been conservative with Finley’s average depth of target, and it’s unlikely that he will move the needle without an impressive showing from his offensive line. Finley leads the SEC with 23% of his throws receiving a negative Pro Football Focus grade.
Arkansas had an impressive showing against Georgia’s rushing offense in Week 1 and has only allowed more than 5.0 YPC against good teams in Auburn and Texas A&M. I expect the Razorbacks, who are 6-1 against the spread, to rise to the occasion.
I also like the fact Arkansas is playing at home and has actually been on field, while LSU hasn’t played a game in three weeks.
Bottom line, either take the home underdog on the moneyline now or live bet the game accordingly, based on LSU’s success running the football or lack thereof at -150 or better.
Pick: Arkansas ML +120 (down to +100)