No. 3 Oregon (0-0) vs No. 4 Louisiana State (0-0)
The game of the year? In Week 1? You bet.
That’s what pretty much every college football, player, scout, coach, pundit and fan is saying about Oregon’s epic matchup against LSU this Saturday night. It’s rare to see a first-week game with stakes so high.
But, when the No. 3 and No. 4-ranked teams in the coaches’ poll clash, there’s a good chance that loser will be eliminated from BCS title game contention.
Let’s breakdown the epic battle.
Oregon came oh-so close to national glory last season, running the table before losing to Heisman Trophy winner Cam Newton and the Auburn Tigers in the BCS Championship Game. Now, the Ducks are out to finish the job.
The road starts with mighty LSU, but the Ducks at least don’t have to travel to Louisiana, instead battling the Tigers at the relatively neutral Cowboys Stadium. The two superpowers have a combined 41-7 record over the last two seasons.
Oregon will hope to once again showcase the league’s top offense this season. The Ducks led the country with a whopping 532 yards and 47 points per game last season.
But will LSU’s defense be Oregon’s maker?
Even though the tigers lost Patrick Peterson to the NFL, they still return eight starters from a group that finished 13th in the nation last year and allowed just 18.2 points per contest.
The big story surrounding this game, and the reason why oddsmakers flipped the line to make Oregon the favorite last week, is the bar fight several LSU players were involved in on August 19. It left four non-player hospitalized.
As a result, starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson, receiver Russell Sheppard, linebacker Josh Johns and possibly center T-bob Hebert are suspended for Week 1.
Some Jefferson detractors will be happy about the news. He threw for just 1,411 yards with seven touchdowns versus 10 interceptions last season and was largely viewed as the only thing holding LSU back from a title last season. Jarrett Lee outplayed him in limited duty and will get his shot to lead the Tigers’ offense this week.
But many people close to Louisiana State football believed entering the season that Jefferson still had the higher ceiling and that developing him as a player was the best way to get LSU a national title.
Because of the suspension, Jefferson won’t get the chance to build his confidence right away, instead being thrust right back into a quarterback controversy.
On the flipside, Oregon’s key defensive player, cornerback Cliff Harris, has also been suspended. He was busted for speeding on Interstate 5 in June.
With LSU missing its key passer and Oregon missing its key pass defender, the big question for Saturday is: which team’s loss hurts more?
Only time will tell.