This type of game is great for programs but terrible on defensive coordinators. Having an opponent like Oregon or LSU staring you down on the calendar all off season can ignite your spring and summer workouts. However both John Chavis and Nick Aliotti have their work cut out for them. LSU defense can’t afford too many question marks when stepping onto the field against the nation’s best running game. Oregon isn’t used to starting out the season with the pressure, national title implications, and not as an underdog. Oregon has also not played well against strong mobile quarterbacks.
Let’s take a look at my take on the match-ups…
This is a very close battle but I give the advantage to Oregon’s Darron Thomas. Jordan Jefferson is a very talented player (20-7 as LSU starting QB) and I’m sure will be a much improved passer this season, but going off of 2010, Thomas will make a big difference with his feet and decision making, especially off the play action pass (the fact that the Tigers would rather have him carry the ball than LaMichael James will only add to his rushing numbers). This season Jefferson will have to do a better job in the red zone and with throwing the deep ball.
Running back(s): OREGON
Oregon is a spread offense and their goal is to force the defense to cover the entire football field. A constant attack of running plays that force defensive tackles to take away a gap, defensive ends to secure the edge, and great fill from the 3 linebackers. The ducks have plenty of speed and vision at the tailback position.
LaMichael James wore down numerous pairs of cleats last season rushing for 1731 yards on 294 carries and offensive coordinators dream about averaging 5.9 yards a carry.
Kenjon Barner added 551 yards on 91 carriers in 2010. Kenjon averaged 6.1 yards a carry and found the end zone 6 times, helping the Ducks finish third overall in the country.
The Tigers also have a highly talented tailback group returning from 2010. They may have lost their heavy hitter Stevan Ridley to the NFL (New England Patriots), but they have plenty of talent coming back. Michael Ford had 45 carriers in 2010 rushing for a total of 268 yards (6.0 average per carry) and 3 touchdowns. Spencer Ware took advantage of his limited touches last season by grabbing 175 yards on 24 carriers. Ware averaged 7.3 yards a touch and scored a touchdown against Louisiana-Monroe.
The Tigers will incorporate a zone read scheme (similar to Oregon and many teams across the nation) that will allow for the quarterback to make a backside read on heel line of the offense, determining if Jefferson will give the ball or keep it. However, with the added size of LSU’s backs they also like to toss the ball back to tailback so that he can attack the line of scrimmage with a full head of steam and plenty of time to read his blockers. I noticed that from time to time LSU will run from under center with an I formation (adding a fullback in front of the tailback).
Either way both teams have speed and talent in the back field but how do the offensive lines stack up?
These two are night and day. Oregon and LSU. Here is the skinny. Oregon recruits athletic lineman, and LSU wants bigger guys up front, and in 2011 it shows. The Tigers also have the experience card. Bringing back many players from last season who played and/or started games in 2010, an outsider’s take was that LSU saw a number of injuries last season to their lineman.
Oregon was pushed around last season by physically superior defensive lines. Most notably in the National championship game against Auburn, however Oregon was forth in the nation for total rushing yards and number one in points. So, is the Pac-12 that weak or is their system one based on running a fast paced offense aiming on wearing down a big four man front?
LSU will put more guys into the NFL then Oregon. The systems are different and the players show but there is no doubt that the Tigers take this category.
Wide Receivers: LSU
LSU has a few starters returning from last season. They have speed, size, and the ability to stretch defenses both vertically and horizontally. However can they get the ball? This is the only question facing the Tiger’s wide outs. If Jefferson struggles we may see Zach Mettenberger step in and take the helm. New Offensive Coordinator, Steve Kragthorpe, has plenty of experience grooming quarterbacks and this may be a perfect marriage in Baton Rouge.
Oregon lacks experience in this department, losing Jeff Maehl to the NFL (undrafted Rookie) will be a huge blow to the Ducks offense in 2011. Oregon has speed and youth and no matter what happens against LSU this will be a great test for the Ducks receivers. I’m looking forward to seeing just what Josh Huff brings to the table this season.
Tight Ends: DRAW
This is an interesting position to review, and also a reason why Tight Ends have their own coach on staff – part offensive lineman and part wide receiver. The Tigers have a receiver, turned TE who knows how to run in the open field. Deangelo Petereson is listed at 6’4 245lbs and he caught 16 balls for 198 yards. Steve Kragthorpe has utilized TE’s in his previous coaching jobs and should look to bring that thinking to Baton Rouge in order to improve on their touchdowns in the red zone.
Oregon will showcase David Paulson as their TE down field threat. In 2010 Paulson caught 24 receptions for 418 total yards (long of 61 yards) and four touchdowns.
Both teams carry extra tackles that help the offensive line called “blocking” tight ends. Both teams have enough beef to zone block either side of the line. However, the ability of these gentlemen to release up field and catch a pass becomes the difference maker in being a “skilled” player and a lineman.
Defensive Units: LSU
Both schools are incredibly close in this category. In 2010 LSU finished 11th overall in points against (18.2) and Oregon was 12th in the nation (18.7). However that was 2010 and this is week one 2011. Oregon’s only advantage is in the defensive secondary, but we all know that Cliff Harris is suspended and will not be available to play against LSU. Not only does that mean that Oregon loses a talented young corner, but they also lose an explosive punt returner. Don’t worry too much though, John Boyett (3rd year starter) returns and he is a beast in the middle of the field.
Oregon’s defensive line was lights out last season, but they lose three key players that allowed the ducks to rotate from a 4-3 to a 3-4. One of the good things about having a successful season (with plenty of big leads) is that it allows for plenty of back up players to get some precious in-game experience. So what the Ducks are lacking in experienced starters they make up with a young group of guys who have tasted action and are ready for more. Oregon’s D-line looked pretty good during spring camp going against an inexperienced offensive line and usually defenses come together a little faster than offenses during spring camp. That’s just the nature of the game and how each side of the ball is played.
LSU, on the other hand, brings back a little more and will be a tough group up front. If this game comes down to leaning and pushing then Oregon could be in trouble. Sam Montgomery along with Lavar Edwards and Barkevious Mingo look to anchor the defensive end rotation. Each around 6’5 and 240-265 pounds, these gentlemen should provide solid edge protection and a speedy pass rush.
Both teams have question marks at the line backer positions. Oregon parted with two greats (
Casey Matthews Spencer Paysinger) leaving Josh Kaddu the lone starter returning from 2010. Kaddu plays strong side LB at 6’3 230, he started 13 games, and recorded 32 tackles. Oregon will be young, athletic, and full of potential. The defense that Aliotti runs is complex and could spell trouble for a young group early in the year. However in recent history the Ducks have always reloaded and not rebuilt on defense. The trademark Gang Green unit is always fast and puts hats on the ball. I would expect to be pleasantly surprised by some of the newer names at linebacker like Boseko Lokombo and Michael Clay.
LSU will also play with their defensive sets rotating from four down lineman to three, adding linebackers or DB’s to toy with offenses across the country. Senior Ryan Baker is a little small, but like dynamite, the package may not resemble the boom. The 6’0 227 pound outside linebacker can bring heat. He recorded 87 tackles last season and seven sacks. Similar to Oregon’s spring game, I was also really impressed with the Tigers defense compared to their offense. I really like the speed that LSU plays with, and at the point of contact they explode through ball carriers. Ankle tackles are uncommon and it had to make Jefferson and his fellow QB’s happy that they got to wear red jerseys and only got touched.
Both schools are fast and love takeaways. An old cliché, but Defense wins Championships and whoever wins this game will have to be a front runner for a bid to play for it all.
Pac 12 vs. SEC…finishing number 3 and number 8 after the 2010/11 season, the Oregon Ducks and the LSU Tigers. What a game this is going to be! If you can’t get excited for this game you probably don’t have a pulse.
I believe that this game will be a high scoring affair and the Ducks will eventually end up having too much speed late in the 4th to beat LSU on the road. Make no mistake this is a home game for the Tigers. They played their bowl game in Cowboy stadium and there should be more fans wearing purple than green.
LSU is big, strong and will own the middle. The questions for the Tigers will be; what kind of player will Jefferson be this season, and concerning this game, what type of player will he be early on?
Big plays will make this a contest. I believe that LSU will own time of possession and 3rd down conversions, but will have to settle for more field goals in the red zone, and will lose the turnover battle. The Tigers will be able to move the ball on the ground against Oregon. I am certain that on early downs we will see a lot of tw- back sets attempting to run between the tackles. Kragthorpe will take a few shots deep down field early on testing Cliff Harris’s replacement on an island at corner.
Oregon, having last played Auburn who is a similar team from the SEC, will not make the same mistakes that they did in January. Thomas and the offenses were passive at the start of the game. This time around Chip Kelly needs to take advantage of overly aggressive defensive lineman and utilize quick screens along with the play action game in order to soften the Tigers rush. My prediction is Oregon 27, LSU 21.
Two of the country’s best going head to head right off the bat. Thank you to both schools athletic departments for getting this game on the schedule.