Typically the first weekend of college football is running rampant with blowouts. The top teams lace up their cleats to take on a team likely not even remotely capable of challenging them, as they tune up for the real season with the first game action of 2011.
But in the case of Oregon and LSU, they don’t have it easy this weekend. In fact, they’ll present us with our only real marquee matchup of the weekend when the two meetup in Arlington on Saturday night.
We know about Oregon. They have quite possibly the most dynamic, and quickest, offense in the nation. After nearly tasting a National Championship last season before losing to Auburn, they are looking to win just one more game than they did in 2010.
They’ll certainly have the tools to do it. Much of their Pac-10 title team returns, which is led by LaMichael James. The Heisman hopeful, and finalist last year, ran for over 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns in 2010, along with a trio of receiving touchdowns.
The situation surrounding LSU is a lot more uncertain, with several players having been involved in an incident in a bar, including starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson, who has already been suspended as a result of the altercation. Lawyers for the men that were injured in the brawl with Jefferson, and allegedly other LSU players, has already said that more arrests could be coming, meaning more suspensions for the Tigers.
The off the field issues were certainly not how Les Miles and co. had hoped to kick off their 2011 campaign, which had title hopes, initially. Now led by Jarrett Lee under center, the Tigers still appear to have the tools to make a run at a national title, but can they stave off the off-the-field distractions?
Regardless of the results of Saturday’s tilt, the two teams will likely remain in the hunt for the National Championship until the end of the season. But who needs a win more?
In terms of morale, it’s likely LSU. They’ve dealt with so much recently due to behavioral issues that quite a few members of this team possess. The staff, fans, and remainder of the team that wasn’t involved in the bar brawl are certainly looking for a huge win to attempt to put this ugly situation behind them.
However, in terms of the actual results on the field, it’s Oregon that is more in need of a win on Saturday. LSU, if they lose, will have a chance to bounce back and grab some wins against major teams. After Oregon, Auburn, Alabama, and Arkansas all remain on their schedule, which all present an opportunity to get back into the title talk, even with a loss.
Oregon doesn’t have such an opportunity. After LSU, their toughest contests will feature Arizona State, Stanford, and USC. One could very easily argue that those games very much favor Oregon, if their offense is as much of a machine as it was last year. They could win out after Saturday, but any talk of appearing in the National Championship Game might be out of reach.
No matter who needs the win more, and regardless of the result, fans on both sides and around the country are likely happy to just have college football back. This SEC/Pac-12 clash should set a fantastic tone for us when the two championship contenders meet on Saturday night.