Off the field issues have overshadowed what should be a great game on it. Both LSU and Oregon appear to have paid for Willie Lyles’ personal touch. The Tigers have suspensions stemming from a bar fight, the Ducks from stars flying high down an interstate in the morning’s wee hours. And, of course, there was LSU’s other recruiting scandal.
Quarterback Change: There are two ways to view Lee replacing Jefferson. Half-full, Lee is more limited and starting him imposes focus on the crazed circus that has been LSU’s play-calling. The Tigers often try to do too many things with too many multitalented players and the effect can be muddled and even. Lee narrows their options, forces them to pound the ball with Spencer Ware and, perhaps, may bring a more stable route to success. Half-empty, Lee’s limitations play into Oregon’s hands. Not having to contain Jefferson lets Oregon’s defense be more ambitious, complicating their blitz and coverage schemes.
Oregon on Offense: Darron Thomas and LaMichael James return, but Kelly must replace a number of starters at receiver and on the offensive line. They could struggle with precision and opening up the field for the talent they bring back at running back. LSU does not have a game-alterer like Nick Fairley, but, in some ways, presents a stiffer challenge with Auburn. LSU has John Chavis, one of college football’s best defensive coordinators and athleticism and talent at every position. Oregon find their rhythm.
LSU on Offense: LSU lost its starting quarterback to suspension and its offensive coordinator to a devastating disease. Amidst uncertainty, they will probably keep it simple. Oregon is outside up front, with a number of new starters in both phases of the front seven. Theoretically, LSU should be able to run the ball, control the clock and keep Oregon’s offense off the field.
Prediction: The paper strength rests with the Tigers. Though, that’s mitigated by the coaching matchup and the recent turmoil surrounding LSU. Oregon has been less effective against rested, well-coached teams given time to prepare (See Ohio State, Boise State, Auburn). As TCU showed last night, wizardry can only account so much for matchup and personnel issues. Chip Kelly may find a way, but for now, I’m going the hat, 27-21 LSU.
[Photo via Getty]