That's two in a row.
Granted, Auburn won the national championship last year and 2011 LSU is good enough to win it all – both of those teams would do well against almost any offense – but Oregon's tippy-tappy, hurry-up, gimmicky offense failed on the ground for the second big game in a row. In fact, get Oregon out of Autzen Stadium for a huge game against a great team, and the thing really doesn't work.
The Ducks got a huge passing day out of Darron Thomas against Auburn because the ground game was stuffed for just 75 yards. In the 2010 Rose Bowl, Oregon's high-powered attack came up with just 179 rushing yards with two scores, and to start the 2009 season, the ground game came up with just 31 yards against Boise State.
Against LSU, Oregon ran for 95 yards and two touchdowns, averaging 3.4 yards per carry, forcing Thomas to try to win the game by throwing 54 times. That's not how this is supposed to work, and as good as Thomas is, he can't beat the elite of the elite teams by throwing the ball.
Oh sure, the Duck offense will rebound to blow up against Nevada. It'll put up 50 points in the first half against Missouri State, and it'll destroy the rest of the mediocre Pac-12 to finish with jaw-dropping numbers. The running game will probably finish among the best in the country on the way to the Rose Bowl, but something has to be tweaked.
Chip Kelly is a tremendous head coach, and even with the problems with the ground game, Oregon came within a field goal of winning the national title, battled Ohio State late in the Rose Bowl, and the defense held LSU to just 273 yards.
The program, of course, is among the best in America and it really does deserve a top ten ranking, if not higher, but to get over the hump, Kelly has to figure out how to make the ground attack work against a team with a great defensive front seven. To be fair, Oklahoma's record-setting offense of 2009 hit a brick wall in the national title against Florida, and great defenses tend to stop everyone, but until Oregon can start winning the really big ones, this offense can't lead the way to a championship.
It seems as if I grow more impressed by Les Miles with each passing season. Unfairly labeled as a caricature because of his quirky tendencies on and off the field, the guy can flat out coach as Saturday night's impressive win over Oregon indicated. His Tigers didn't arrive in Arlington with the buzz or the flash of Oregon. Heck, they didn't even have two key suspended starters on offense, QB Jordan Jefferson and WR Russell Shepard. It mattered not because Miles, defensive coordinator John Chavis and the rest of the staff made sure that the opener was going to be won in the film room and on the practice field, weeks before the crowd ever filled Cowboys Stadium. Jarrett Lee, Jefferson's successor, managed the game well. The Tigers ran the ball well behind Spencer Ware and Michael Ford. And the D made potent Oregon fizzle, holding the Ducks to a single touchdown in the first 51 minutes. Nothing sexy. Few stars. Just effective and physical football in a very Miles-esque sort of way.
Oregon will be back, even if a second straight BCS National Championship game appearance is probably off the table. You can count on it. The 2011 edition reminds me of the 2009 squad, the fresh-faced one that took it on the chin in the opener versus Boise State before rallying to win the Pac-10 and play in the Rose Bowl. Unfortunately for the Ducks, Pasadena might be the ceiling after just one evening. LSU made sure of it by methodically picking apart its opponent with a terrific gameplan and just enough execution on both sides of the line of scrimmage.
By Matt Zemek
This game eerily mirrored the South Florida-Notre Dame contest earlier in the day. The smart money (if that's still an allowable phrase in college football these days - thank you, Nevin Shapiro...) suggested that Jarrett Lee would be the man most likely to commit a game-changing gaffe, but it was Oregon's combination of kick returners (Kenjon Barner) and running backs (DeAnthony Thomas) who quite literally lost hold of this game.
South Florida's B.J. Daniels figured to lose Saturday's game against Notre Dame, but he responded with a mature, low-mistake performance while his opponent imploded. Daniels got out of his own way and allowed his defense to do the heavy lifting. The same was true for Lee, a much-maligned quarterback who was thrown into the din of this deathmatch only because his LSU teammate, Jordan Jefferson, couldn't stay out of trouble during the offseason. Lee figured to be a liability for his team, but he instead delivered accurate and safe throws from the pocket, acting the part of a steady field general. LSU's special teams unit and its defense did the rest of the work, pounding Oregon into submission and rattling the Ducks throughout the second half.
It's worth noting that Oregon didn't commit its fumbles within a context of success; the Ducks' turnovers, while perhaps unforced in an immediate sense, were the product of fear. LSU got inside Oregon's psyche and made authoritative statements with its clearly superior physicality. Scoring a touchdown on a simple power-running play on third and goal from the Oregon 5 is the kind of demonstration which can and will break an opponent's desire to fight. LSU bludgeoned Oregon, and because Jarrett Lee didn't make any big mistakes, the Tigers' physical prowess was able to manifest itself over the course of 60 minutes.
By Russ Mitchell
Follow me on Twitter @russmitchellcfb
This pretty much played out exactly as we expected. The Tigers dominated most of the facets of this game, though you'd never know it from looking at the box score, which gave the appearance of a tighter game.
138 of Oregon's 335 yards came in the fourth quarter after LSU got up by 20, twice, and played with less intensity than the first three quarters.
Oregon quarterback Derron Thomas had 240 yards passing, but needed 54 attempts, and with a poor 4 yard average and a bad interception to go along. Moreover, 119 of those yards – basically 50% - came in that fourth quarter, when LSU was up by 20 points and in a mild prevent defense.
Thomas very rarely looked sharp, and Oregon played sloppy football right out of the gate. The Ducks had 12 penalties for 95 yards, three of them on the first series. Worse were four turnovers, though we'll give the Tigers credit for stripping the three fumbles.
As expected, the play in the trenches was another key to the game's outcome. Oregon rushed for less than 100 yards (95) and a 3.4 average on 28 carries. Indeed, the Ducks longest run of the game was only 13 yards.
On the other side of the ball, LSU feasted on a Duck defensive line that was one of the least experienced Oregon has had in years. Oregon had just 16 starts for every defensive lineman on the roster, and that included their one returning starter. Conversely, LSU had eight of its 10 two-deep offensive linemen back, nearly all of them upperclassmen, and every single one a redshirt.
That experience paid off, as LSU trucked for nearly 200 yards on 48 carries, controlling the clock during the critical first three quarters. When Oregon did a good job of putting 9-10 men in the box and stopping the run, LSU's quarterback Jarrett Lee connected with his tight end Deangelo Peterson for several key strikes.
It was also the physical game many anticipated, with the Tigers dealing most of the punishment. Oregon lost both of its running backs (LaMichael James & Kenjon Barner) for a spell, and their replacement – true freshman De'Anthony Thomas – had two costly fumbles in the third quarter, giving LSU a short field in both instances, which led to 14 points.
As we said to Jay Allen on the Oregon Ducks pregame show, this game was going to come down to the second half, as either Oregon's speed would wear out the Tigers, or LSU's big bodies in the trenches and defensive speed would roll over the Ducks. We projected the latter, which was the right pick.
Special kudos to LSU's new offensive coordinator Greg Studrawa.
By: Barrett Sallee
Follow me on Twitter: @BarrettSallee
I hate to tell you "I told you so, but"...oh wait, no I don't.
In our CFN Final Thoughts before the weekend, I wrote that LSU would beat Oregon and win B-I-G. They did.
The Tigers were able to control the line of scrimmage, hide their quarterback and rely on a steady running game to methodically put away the Ducks. Spencer Ware and Michael Ford both had more than 90 yards rushing, Jarrett Lee didn't throw a pick six (that's a big step, if you don't know), and the Tiger D held Heisman Trophy candidate LaMichael James to only 54 yards rushing in a game that wasn't even as close as the score indicates.
Don't be fooled by LSU though. The Tigers were able to withstand the suspensions to quarterback Jordan Jefferson and Russell Shepard because of their matchup advantage over the Ducks on the line of scrimmage. That won't be the case when the Tigers enter SEC play, and linemen have size, speed and strength.
The one thing that did happen on Saturday is that Jarrett Lee solidified himself as the starting quarterback, even if Jefferson's suspension is lifted. The horrendous year that he suffered through back in 2008 seemed to hang with him longer than expected, but a big win over a BCS opponent on the biggest stage of opening weekend will do a lot for a guy's confidence, and Lee will be no exception.