LSU-Oregon: Hype to end, hitting to beginning

September, 3, 2011
9/03/11
8:30
PM ET
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The weeks of hype -- and controversy -- are almost over. In 90 minutes, No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 LSU will start butting heads and we'll get some football answers instead of speculation.

Oregon's high-tempo, spread option offense will get another shot at a big-fast-mean "SEC defense." The Ducks will get an opportunity to end a pattern of struggling to move the ball against A-list defenses that get extra time to prepare.

What tweaks might have Chip Kelly come up with during his extra time to prepare? Are the Ducks going to be pass-first, as they were forced to be against Auburn. Or will the running game get going with LaMichael James, Kenyon Barner and true freshman De'Anthony Thomas?

Suspensions anyone? We'll see what LSU looks like without starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and Russell Shepard, its best receiver. We'll see what the Oregon defense looks like without CB Cliff Harris, and -- most likely -- MLB Kiko Alonso.

Is LSU going to be conservative and rely on its defense and 223-pound running back Spencer Ware? Or will it let Jarrett Lee throw the ball around, thinking a Harris-less secondary isn't as worrisome?

What nutty things do the coaches have planned?

Just like Kelly isn't afraid to go for it on any fourth down or do an on-side kick to open a second half, Les Miles has never been one to shy away from trickeration. Miles, who's 23-0 in regular-season nonconference games, even succeeds when he makes major gaffes.

Miles, however, won't eat the grass at Cowboys Stadium. It's artificial. That would be gross.

While the superficial position is to compare the LSU and Auburn defenses, but that's not really accurate. LSU's is better and more talented at all three levels. Only it has two new starting DTs, not Nick Fairley disrupting things in the middle.

Still, the Tigers secondary is vastly superior to Auburn's. If the Ducks have no running game, it will be tougher going throwing it. And much more risky.

Further, the Ducks are breaking in two new offensive linemen, one of whom -- OG Ramsen Golpashin -- is a 275-pound former walk-on.

Oregon also is breaking in five new starters on its front-7 on defense, though the new guys have plenty of experience. The Ducks defense held up well versus its offense this spring and preseason. Most in green believe the defense will do fine.

After all, no SEC defense did a better job against Cam Newton and Auburn last year.

The stakes are simple: The winner immediately becomes a national title contender. The winner, in fact, might -- should -- move up to No. 1 in the major polls, which means it will have poll position in the title chase.

Things are quiet here at present. But that won't last 80,000 fans are going to pack this place -- a significant majority of them in LSU purple -- and the talk will end and the best season-opener in decades will start to provide some answers.

Ted Miller | email

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