FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - With nothing to play for but no reason to hold back, Arkansas came out in the second half and played loose Friday when No. 8-ranked LSU came to town.
That was enough to make the Tigers work a lot harder than expected.
It wasn't enough for the Razorbacks to finish a dismal season with a win, though, as LSU came away with a 20-13 victory at Reynolds Razorback Stadium.
LSU iced the game with a fourth-quarter drive that culminated with Drew Alleman's 28-yard field goal with 1:26 to play.
That series got a spark from Odell Beckham Jr.'s 47-yard catch-and-run to convert a third down with three minutes to go.
The win pushes LSU to 10-2 overall and 6-2 in the SEC, which means a stunning Auburn win against No. 2-ranked Alabama on Saturday would send LSU to the SEC Championship Game if Texas A&M also beats Missouri to force a three-way tie in the West Division.
The Tigers did not look like a team deserving of that chance through most of Friday's game.
Arkansas outplayed LSU most of the second half, producing 10 points in the third quarter to cut into a halftime deficit.
The only saving grace for the Tigers was Michael Ford's 86-yard kickoff return following a Razorbacks field goal that had trimmed the LSU lead to 10-3.
Ford, who botched the opening kickoff of the second half, wiggled out of trouble near the left sideline and kicked in his speed to get to the corner on the right side. Before he could reach the end zone, Cameron Bryan ran Ford out of bounds to save the touchdown.
That only temporarily stopped LSU, though. Starting from the Arkansas' 14-yard line, Jeremy Hill got the ball three times, and he eventually reached the end zone on a one-yard blast to stretch the lead to 17-3.
In a herky-jerky first half, LSU grabbed a 10-0 lead despite a near standoff in the statistical department.
The only place where the Tigers had a clear advantage was in turnover margin, and that was a major difference.
Arkansas took the opening kickoff and was poised to jump in front, moving 55 yards rather easily to set up first-and-goal from the 9-yard line.
Quarterback Tyler Wilson swung a pass to Dennis Johnson, who carved out seven yards and appeared to be end-zone bound. But Lamin Barrow drilled the Hogs' running back, forcing a fumble, and LSU's Chancey Aghayere pounced on the loose ball at the 2-yard-line.
LSU didn't capitalize on that chance, but did carve out a pair of first downs and inched ahead in the field-position battle when Arkansas muffed a punt that the Razorbacks recovered.
On the first play after the near giveaway, Wilson launched a deep pass down the right sideline and was woefully short. Tharold Simon adjusted in coverage and snared an interception, dodged the first tackler and weaved his way downfield 21 yards to the Hogs' 40-yard line.
The Tigers couldn't get a first down, but got close enough for Alleman to boot a career-long 49-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead.
The lead stayed the same until right before halftime when LSU pieced together its best drive of the first half after Arkansas' Zach Hocker missed a 40-yard field goal when Bennie Logan got a hand on the ball.
With the Tigers leaning on Hill and Spencer Ware, with the short passing game mixed in, they methodically moved down the field. The drive was in trouble at the Arkansas 39, with LSU facing third-and-4. With the play clock running out, Zach Mettenberger called a timeout just in the nick of time.
The Razorbacks' coaches disagreed a little too much that the call was in time, and they were flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct. Three plays later - again on third down - Mettenberger faked a handoff and rifled a pass to Jarvis Landry on a seam pattern to the left side. Landry dove and made a one-handed grab at the back of the end zone for the only touchdown of the first 30 minutes.
NOTES: Friday's game was the first between LSU and Arkansas in Fayetteville since 1992. Starting the following season, the Tigers and Razorbacks played in Little Rock every other season. ... Wilson eclipsed Ryan Mallett as Arkansas' all-time leader in passing yards late in the first half and finished with 359 yards Friday to give him 7,765 for his career. ... Razorbacks' interim coach John L. Smith drew an unsportsmanlike penalty for the second week in a row.