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LSU vs. Oregon: Previewing the Big Game

Sean MerrimanCorrespondent IAugust 31, 2011

LSU vs. Oregon: Previewing the Big Game

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    Oregon vs. LSU

    The game of the year is upon us all, and in less than a week, two top-five teams will take the field in what should be a memorable matchup for the ages.

    While these two teams are considered national championship contenders heading into the 2011 season, they feature complete opposite styles of play, which should make this game that much more intriguing to any college football fan.

    Let's preview this game and point out why this is guaranteed to be the game of the year.

Oregon Offense

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    Defense wins championships, but offense sure gets you a long way..

    Oregon featured the most explosive offense in all of the college football last year, and this season should be much the same story. The Ducks put up 40-plus points in 10 of their 12 games. In fact, Oregon's 15-13 win over Cal was the only game that the team didn't top 37 points.

    Many of the usual suspects return to this offense, but it will all go through QB Darron Thomas and RB LaMichael James.

    Thomas is a freak athlete who came on the scene strong last year and filled in admirably after the dismissal of former QB Jeremiah Masoli. He should be even better in his second year under center, which is good news for the Ducks.

    James is coming off arguably the best season of any running back in college football last season. He rushed for 1,731 yards and 21 touchdowns, while finishing third in the 2010 Heisman Trophy voting.

    Perhaps, the most impressive stat with James is that he topped the 90-yard-mark in all 12 of Oregon's regular season games. The Ducks will look to get him going early and often against the LSU defense.


LSU Defense

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    If any team is going to be able to slow down the Ducks' highly-potent offensive attack, it could be the LSU Tigers.

    Despite losing their three top defenders to the NFL, the Tigers are still loaded with talent and experience. LSU has seven defensive starters back including an athletic group of linebackers that features Ryan Baker, who was second on the team with 87 tackles last season.

    Another factor will be the veteran secondary led by Morris Claiborne, who is one of the top defensive backs in the country.

    This is a defense that can stop both the pass and the run, but they likely won't see an offense as good as Oregon's.

Oregon Defense

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    Oregon's defense is certainly not the team's strong point, and it doesn't help that the Ducks will be without their All-American safety Cliff Harris, who was suspended for an incident earlier this summer when he was speeding while driving with a suspended license.

    This is a huge blow for a defense that struggled at times last season.

    LSU will look to control the clock and run the ball against this defense, which will come as a challenge for the Ducks. Oregon's front seven is not the team's strength, which means that this game could be a shoot out.

    Either way, Oregon is known for its offense and LSU for its defense. Whichever other unit plays better, is who should win this game.

LSU Offense

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    Both of these units took a hit in the offseason, and it should show during this matchup.

    LSU will be playing without quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who was
    arrested and suspended for his alleged role in the August 19th bar fight, with it being reported that Jefferson allegedly kicked the victim in the face.

    Jarrett Lee will enter the season as the Tigers' starting QB, and the good news is that he does have plenty of experience. The bad news is that he wasn't that good when he was given he chance.

    If the Tigers have a chance to win this game, they will have to have to do it with controlling the clock and running the football.

Coaching

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    In six seasons as LSU's head coach, Les Miles owns a 62-17 record, including five bowl wins.

    In two seasons as Oregon's head coach, Chip Kelly owns a 22-4 record, including a 0-2 record in bowl games.

    Both of these coaches are on an elite level, and both of these coaches should continue to have a bright futures ahead of them.

    The only difference right now: Both coaches have been to a national championship, but Miles is the one who owns a ring.

    Advantage: LSU

Special Teams

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    Oregon has arguably the best return man in college football in Cliff Harris, but he will not be playing in this game due to a suspension.

    Kicker Rob Beard returns as does junior punter Jackson Rice. Josh Huff should handle the kickoff duties, and the Ducks also have Kenjon Barner, who is arguably the top second-string running back in the country.

    LSU, on the other hand, has to figure out how to undergo a complete makeover in their special teams unit. 

    Kicker Josh Jasper and punter Derek Helton are gone, as is Patrick Peterson, who was the most electric return man in football last year.

    Expect LSU to reload, but it might take some time.

    Advantage: Oregon

Neutral Sight

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    The best game of Week 1 will not be played at Oregon or LSU. Instead, it will be played on the biggest stage, at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX.

    Reports have already began to surface that close to 80,000 tickets have been sold for the game, but we should expect to see more purple and yellow than green, yellow and white.

    LSU was able to get 37,000 tickets for students and fans, which breaks a school record for a regular-season road game. 

    Both of these schools have huge fanbases, and both of these schools are known for traveling in packs to see their teams play. But with LSU fans having less than a seven-hour trip, expect LSU to have the advantage here.

    Advantage: LSU

Prediction

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    This is a classic battle of a dominant offense (Oregon) vs. a dominant defense (LSU).

    We all know the classic saying of "defense wins championships," but this game isn't a championship, and in this one, offense should trump defense.

    Darron Thomas and LaMichael James are too good to be denied here, and with the loss of Jordan Jefferson, LSU will take a few games to find their groove.

    We can expect a good, high-scoring affair. But in the end, Oregon will prove to be too much for Les Miles' LSU team.

    Prediction: Oregon 42, LSU, 31

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