Originally created 11/28/02

Hogs, Tigers hunting for shot at Georgia in championship game



ATLANTA -- Defending champion LSU and streaking Arkansas hold their regular season finale Friday, with the winner getting a shot at No. 5 Georgia in the Southeastern Conference championship game Dec. 7.

This showdown will take place at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock where Razorback coach Houston Nutt has never lost - holding a 13-0 record in Arkansas' second home since taking the helm in 1988.

However, it hasn't exactly been a graveyard for the visiting Tigers. LSU holds a 7-4 lead over the Hogs in games played at Little Rock, including two in a row that came before Nutt arrived.

Arkansas is the hottest team in the SEC, having won five in a row since a 29-17 loss to Kentucky in Fayetteville on Oct. 19.

LSU has struggled down the stretch after losing quarterback Matt Mauck to an injury, winning close games against Kentucky and Ole Miss and dropping blowout decisions to Auburn and Alabama.

That makes it easy to understand why Arkansas enters the game with some confidence against the team most figured to waltz to the SEC West crown for the second year in a row.

"We're looking at it as a great opportunity for us and feel like we have a chance," Nutt said. "You go by practice and the work ethic. These guys have been working hard at getting their assignments down, along with being sound fundamentally."

Coach Nick Saban wants his team to think about beating Arkansas, not winning the West.

"There's a lot of obstacles we have to overcome to be able to win a game on the road of this magnitude," Saban said. "That's what we need to focus on. It's not about winning the West. It's about what we need to do to beat Arkansas."

Arkansas is a 4 1/2-point favorite, and the way Matt Jones has been playing lately, that won't be a problem for the Hogs. Arkansas 24-17.

Elsewhere around the SEC this week, with the regular season over for No. 20 Auburn, South Carolina and Vanderbilt:

Mississippi State (plus 9 1/2) at Mississippi on Thursday: The Bulldogs are motivated to avoid a winless SEC record for the first time since 1988. Rebels, trying to snap a five-game losing streak, could become bowl eligible with a victory. Ole Miss 24-17.

No. 14 Alabama (minus 13) at Hawaii: Probation keeps the Crimson Tide out of the bowl picture, but this likely will be an even more fun trip for Bama. Ex-Falcon coach June Jones has made solid progress with the Warriors, but taking on the Tide will be too tall an order. Alabama 38-17.

No. 15 Florida (plus 4) at No. 23 Florida State: Gators haven't won in Tallahassee since 1986, going 0-6-1 since. This is the year that will change. Rex Grossman is looking better each week and FSU is showing signs it's nowhere near as good as usual. Florida 28-21.

Georgia Tech (plus 10) at No. 5 Georgia: The Yellow Jackets have won two in a row in Athens and three of the last four meetings with the Bulldogs, who have to guard against looking ahead to next week's SEC championship game against the Arkansas-LSU winner. Georgia 24-17.

Kentucky (plus 8) at Tennessee: Vols will have their hands full stopping Lorenzen, Pinner, Abner & Co., but they will - for the 18th year in a row. Tennessee 28-24.

Last week's totals: 4-1 straight, 3-1 vs. spread. For year: 73-18 straight, 44-31-4 vs. spread.