September 3, 2011

LSU, Oregon offer contrasting offensive styles

The Ducks, Tigers are nothing alike offensively.

No one can confuse Oregon with Louisiana.

From political climate to actual climate, the two are as different as ducks and tigers.

And when the top college football programs from those states converge in Arlington tonight for the Cowboys Classic, No. 3 Oregon and No. 4 LSU will showcase a clash vastly different offensive styles.

"I think every team in the country is way different than us," Oregon running back LaMichael James said. "Sometimes LSU will line up with a fullback. We don't even use one. They might huddle for 20 seconds. We don't even go to a huddle at all. We are 100 percent different."

When it comes to season goals, however, both the Ducks and Tigers are aiming for a national championship. The winner of tonight's game will be much closer to that goal.

Cowboys Classic officials expect close to 90,000 fans at Cowboys Stadium. All eyes will be on Oregon's offense facing LSU's defense. LSU has a strong defensive front that could hamper Oregon's explosive running game -- the Ducks ran for 3,721 yards last year, led by Heisman candidate James.

"Offensively, they can get the ball snapped in six to eight seconds," LSU coach Les Miles said at his Monday news conference.

"They return maybe the marquee back in the country in LaMichael James. They return a very talented playmaker at quarterback in Darron Thomas. They return a number of offensive linemen and have playmakers at wide receiver."

Slowing the Ducks is not easy, and Oregon has worked in the off-season to speed up even more in practice.

"We've found a way to practice even faster," Oregon coach Chip Kelly said in a teleconference Tuesday. "It makes us more efficient, and you get more reps. That allows us to get more players involved. That's our goal, to improve the whole team."

James said he struggled to keep up with Kelly's practice pace for two years. This off-season, he had no trouble. When he caught a few minutes of No. 1 Oklahoma's offense practicing on TV, he couldn't help but think they were moving in slow motion.

"Our tempo is unbelievable," he said. "It's so fast. It's so much different watching other people practice. I love the way we play because it's like being in a video game. You don't have a single off moment."

Neither will the LSU defense.

"They are special on offense because of that tempo," LSU safety Craig Loston said. "When they are gaining yards, they continue to play at that fast pace. We will have to stop them from making some big plays, and if we can do that, we will be all right."

James and his teammates realize LSU is capable of slowing them.

"They have probably the best defense we will face all year," James said. "They are fast, strong and active. We want to be the best, and this game will show a lot. Our offense against their defense."

The Ducks' last game was a defeat in the BCS National Championship Game to Auburn and its strong SEC defense.

"That loss has been a big motivation for us," Thomas said. "Now we're going up against another great SEC team. So, we kind of have a chip on our shoulders. We want to show people we are prepared and ready to go."

LSU has a lot to prove as well. In the past few weeks, three players have been suspended, including starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson and wide receiver Russell Shepard.

"It's been a little wild for the past few weeks," LSU junior receiver Rueben Randle said. "We weren't expecting any of this. But coach Miles has done a great job keeping us focused on the task at hand. He did a great job managing the situation and keeping us busy working and preparing. It's been a tough situation."

With its two biggest offensive playmakers out for tonight's game, LSU will need backup QB Jarrett Lee to turn in a big performance. And while LSU's defense gets more attention, the Ducks aren't easy to score against either.

"We both have speed," Randle said. "They are physical on defense, especially their secondary. They will come up and make big tackles and big hits."

The Cowboys Classic, which will be televised in ABC's primetime 7 p.m. time slot, is also home to ESPN's College Gameday as the matchup of the week.

And the players are ready for kickoff to arrive.

"We've all been in camp since Aug. 8," Thomas said. "We're just ready to get on the field and show what we've been working on."

Brent Shirley, 817-390-7760

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