No. 3 Oregon Ducks (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) at No. 4 LSU Tigers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
Saturday September 3rd, 2011. 8:00PM EST, College Football Week 1
Cowboys Stadium, Arlington, Texas
By Jay Horne, Professional Sports Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: UO -1/LSU +1
Over/Under Total: 55
Two national powerhouses collide when the No. 4 LSU Tigers host the No. 3 Oregon Ducks in one of the most anticipated out of conference pairings of the entire season. Talk about starting the season off with a bang. The Ducks return a lot of talent from their 2010 crusade that made a National Championship appearance. Of course the Ducks fell short to Auburn 22-19 in the BCS National Championship Game, but they will be looking for revenge against one of the other SEC ‘powers’ to start the 2011 season.
The LSU Tigers are one of many talented teams in the SEC West ready to get the season underway. Most “experts” believe the best two teams in the SEC will come down to a battle between Alabama and LSU. Of course anytime you are among the best in the SEC, you are normally considered in the National Championship discussion as well. The Tigers will enter the game sporting the number 4 ranking in the country. Interestingly enough the last time the Tigers were ranked in the top 5 to enter the season they went on to win the National Championship. That is a historical fact that does not bode well for the opposition.
The match-up everyone will be watching is the LSU defense against the Oregon offense. The Tigers defense ranked 12th overall in the country last season holding opponents to just 307 yards per game. This season the Tigers return possibly an even better group especially among the defensive front. On the other side of the field, the Oregon offensive reputation precedes itself. The Ducks are among the quickest striking teams in the nation. Coach Chip Kelly will have his men running plays so quickly after the prior play ended that often times the opposing defense is not even lined up when the ball is snapped.
It’s not just the fast pace offense that will drive defenses crazy, but the Ducks have some of the nation’s best players to attack with as well. Running back LaMichael James was a Heisman Finalist last season after leading the country in rushing with 1,731 yards and 21 touchdowns. James averaged 6 yards per carry and proved countless times that he is a homerun threat out of the backfield. Also, QB Darron Thomas returns after an impressive sophomore season. Thomas completed 61.5% passing for 2,881 yards with 30 touchdowns and 9 picks in 2010. If Thomas continues to improve with his consistency, the Ducks will be even tougher to stop offensively if that’s even possible.
The other match up on the field will be the LSU offense against the Oregon defense. Both groups struggled at times in 2010 and they will be looking for improvement this season. The Tigers offense relied heavily on the rushing attack to move the chains last season. Tailback Stevan Ridley was the workhorse for the offense, but has since departed to the NFL. Filling his shoes, will be sophomore running back Spencer Ware. Ware has put together a solid off-season and appears to show promising signs that he can carry the workload this season.
The offense will be able to move the ball on the ground. The offensive line and group of running backs are just too good not to be able to move the ball effectively. However, what will determine if the Tigers can be a legitimate National Championship threat will be the play of quarterback Jordan Jefferson. Jefferson has been plagued with inconsistency issues over the years and completed just 56% passing with 7 scores and 10 picks in 2010. The LSU offense simply had a non-existent passing game last season and that will have to change if they expect to make it back to the big stage.
On the other side of the ball, the Oregon defense posted respectable numbers in 2010 ranking 34th overall holding offenses to 347 yards per game. The Ducks defense returns 5 starters from last year’s group and is expected to be solid unit from top to bottom yet again. If the Oregon defensive line can match the intensity of the LSU offensive front and force the Tigers into passing situations, they should be in good shape. However if the LSU offensive line is able to knock them off the ball all game, it could turn out to be another long day at the hands of another SEC opponent.
Jay’s Prediction to Cover the Point Spread:
This LSU offense scares me. The Tigers are a very good team that will do well this year, but you have to be able to score points in some way when you tangle with Oregon. I simply think that the Ducks will be too much to handle out of the gates as their offense will return some experienced playmakers that should excel immediately. The LSU offense will need more time before they have all the answers sorted out. The Tigers defense will have a strong performance, but in the end it will not be enough. Take Oregon -1.
Additional College Football Betting Previews