OXFORD, Miss. — LSU linebacker Ryan Baker promises there was no Arkansas talk on the sidelines or in the locker room Saturday.
He smiled that boyish smile while relaying the message that Ole Miss was the only topic of discussion during and after the 52-3 drubbing of the Rebels, so who knows if he was fibbing?
But would anyone have blamed the Tigers for casting aside such an overmatched opponent so quickly?
It took 28 seconds for LSU to get its game-winning score and less than a quarter before Ole Miss’ student section began to shrink and file out of Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and into the Grove.
Saturday night was an imposing display of total dominance that began with a Ron Brooks’ interception returned 46 yards for a touchdown on a poorly thrown pass from Zack Stoudt.
This “contest” was over before Jordan Jefferson even took the first snap of his second start of the year and it could have been worse if not for four kneel-downs ordered by LSU coach Les Miles inside Ole Miss’ 5-yard line with five minutes remaining.
“We felt like if we came with it fast and physical we could jump on top of them,” LSU defensive tackle Michael Brockers said. “We felt like if it gets pretty bad, they would let it down, shut it down a little bit.”
LSU imposed its will, and there was nothing Ole Miss could do.
LSU’s rout wasn’t surprising and the speed with which it occured probably didn’t shock anyone, either. It says a lot about the shape of an Ole Miss program that will say goodbye to head coach Houston Nutt after next week’s game at Mississippi State, but it also says a lot about where this LSU program is.
There is no question that this is the best team in the country and during a game in which LSU could have easily played down to its competition, the Tigers never lagged or got sloppy.
“This team realizes the path that it’s on,” Miles said.
“Our football team recognizes that for our destiny and the things that we need to do.”
Miles said he didn’t bring up Oklahoma State’s Friday night loss to Iowa State. He didn’t mention the SEC’s Saturday struggles. He didn’t because it wouldn’t have added any motivation.
LSU doesn’t need it.
“Our plan was good. I felt like our guys came in with an edge and a want for victory,” Miles said.
“Really, we felt like this is what we do. You don’t have to sugarcoat it. You don’t have to bring up other teams having difficulties. All you need to say is simply, ‘This is what we do.’”
LSU doesn’t have time to get sluggish or walk into a game. LSU sprints at and over its opponents each week. It would have been natural for LSU to spend all of its energy and emotion on the Alabama game, but somehow there is more fuel to push through to the finish.
“This team has a lot of drive. Our goals at the end of the year are to play for something significant,” Baker said. “You can really see it in this team’s demeanor that we really want this championship at the end of the year.”
To accomplish that goal, getting past Arkansas is the next step. If LSU is the best team in the country, Arkansas might as well be the hottest one after dismantling Mississippi State 44-17 Saturday.
Since slipping by Ole Miss and Vanderbilt, Arkansas has outscored its last three opponents 137-52. What started off as just a high-powered passing game has evolved into a much more balanced offense in the past three weeks, giving the Hogs legitimate BCS aspirations.
They would love nothing more than to put a big, fat blemish on LSU’s sparkling resume. An Arkansas victory would create a three-team tie in the West if Alabama beats Auburn, so there is a semifinal feel to next Friday.
A loss for the Tigers could crush their national championship hopes.
If the Alabama game was “The Game,” LSU defensive end Barkevious Mingo labeled this one “The Game: Part 2.”
Film sessions start Sunday. It’s offense vs. defense. It’s glamor verses grit.
“They love to pass the ball and we love to give pressure,” Mingo said. “We’ll see how that works out.”
The rest of the country is anxiously waiting.