BATON ROUGE - One of the most anticipated and talked about season openers in school history is a day away as fourth-ranked LSU will square off against third-ranked Oregon at 7 p.m. CT on Saturday in the Cowboys Classic in Arlington, Texas.
Playing the marquee game during the opening week of the 2011 college football season, LSU and Oregon will become the first top-five teams to square off at a neutral site during the first week of a season since 1984. It's only the third time in the history of college football that a two top-five teams meet during the first week of the season at a neutral site.
Oregon is also the highest-ranked season-opening opponent for LSU in school history, matching the Tigers' game against third-ranked Texas A&M in 1995.
LSU and Oregon will be televised to a national audience on ABC. ESPN Radio will broadcast the game nationally, while play-by-play announcer Jim Hawthorne, color analyst Doug Moreau and sideline reporter Gordy Rush will handle the call for the LSU Sports Radio Network.
The game, which has been among the hottest tickets in LSU history, will be played in Cowboys Stadium, the second consecutive contest for the Tigers in the venue. Last year, LSU closed the year with a 41-24 win over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
LSU GameDay Info
LSU (H) vs. Oregon
ESPN College GameDay will air live from Lot 3 in front of Cowboys Stadium from 8-11 a.m. CDT (first hour on ESPNU). From 6 a.m. until noon CT, fans may park in Lot H, where an ESPN Shuttle will transport fans to the set in Lot 3.
Parking Lots open to the public at noon CT | Map
Ticket Will Call for LSU fans opens at 3 p.m. CT. It will be located at the South Box Office of Cowboys Stadium between Entries E and F.
LSU will wear white jerseys and will occupy the Cowboys' sideline (south).
The roof to the stadium will be closed.
Kickoff: 7:12 p.m. CT
LSU, winners of a school-record eight-straight season openers, brings the nation's longest active non-conference regular-season winning streak into the contest at 33. LSU hasn't lost a non-conference regular-season game since a 26-8 setback at Virginia Tech to open the 2002 season.
Oregon, the two-time defending Pac-12 champion, posted a 12-1 mark a year ago and advanced to the BCS National Championship Game before falling to Auburn, 22-19. It's the first meeting between the teams since a 56-17 LSU win over the Ducks in Tiger Stadium in 1977.
"We are excited to finally get the season underway," said LSU coach Les Miles, who enters his seventh season at the school. "We've had a really good camp and I have liked our preparation this week. We have done a good job of focusing on football and I think our players are ready to go out there and compete against one of the top teams in college football."
The Tigers go into the Oregon game without three starters - quarterback Jordan Jefferson, wide receiver Russell Shepard and left guard Josh Dworaczyk. Jefferson is currently suspended indefinitely; Shepard is in the process of going through the re-instatement process after being ruled ineligible last week; and Dworaczyk is likely out for the season with a knee injury.
"The football routine has not really been upset much," Miles said. "We changed the cast a little bit, but our practice has been the same. The style of effort that we've seen has been the same, and maybe the best part of the routine was the football. The guys could step on the field, put things in the background and really concentrate on the task at hand."
Miles and the Tigers will turn to fifth-year senior Jarrett Lee at quarterback. Lee will be starting for the 10th time in his career, but the first in a season opener.
Lee, a native of Brenham, Texas, goes into the Oregon game with a 5-4 record as a starter. He's thrown for over 2,800 yards in his career. Lee has also led some notable LSU fourth-quarter comebacks, including at Florida and against Tennessee in 2010.
"He's got so much experience," Miles said. "He's taken the field as a starter before, and now, even having played some part-time role last year, he's able to draw from those experiences. I really think that (Coach Steve) Kragthorpe did a great job working with (Lee's) mechanics and the development of his knowledge. I am looking forward to watching him play. I think he's ready and I predict that he'll play very well."
Miles noted that Lee has the confidence of his teammates, so much that he was an overwhelming choice as the offensive game captain for the Oregon game.
"I think it's obvious that he's a great teammate," Miles said. "That's part of the package. He had an overwhelming vote for the offensive side (as game captain), and I think his team has confidence in him."
Lee will get help on offense from an offense line that features four players with starting experience, including junior center P.J. Lonergan and senior T-Bob Hebert. The Tiger running game will be centered around sophomore Spencer Ware, who had a breakout game in the Cotton Bowl last year with over 100 yards in the win over Texas A&M. Ware share the position with fellow sophomores Michael Ford and Alfred Blue.
When the Tigers go to the air, Lee's primary target will be junior Rueben Randle. Randle, considered one of the top receivers in college football, goes into 2011 with 44 career receptions for 717 yards and five touchdowns. A pair of true freshmen in Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry are expected to see a lot of playing time at wide receiver and they both are explosive and potential game-changers.
Defensively, the Tigers will be saddled with trying to stop one of the best offenses in the nation as the Ducks feature a fast-paced style that has a knack for racking up big plays with its quick-strike attack. Leading the defensive charge for LSU will be senior linebacker Ryan Baker and sophomore defensive back Tyrann Mathieu.
"They are so talented on offense with running back LaMichael James and quarterback Darren Thomas," Miles said. "We are going to have to play smart and make sure we stay with our assignments on defense. They try to wear you down with their tempo. We have been preparing for fast pace that we are going to face since the spring, but you never know how you are going to react until you get into game.
"I think we have a very talented defense with a bunch of young guys who I'm looking forward to watching play. These are the types of games that you come to schools like LSU and Oregon to play in. It will be a great college football atmosphere with a national prime time audience watching. There's a lot to be excited about. I'm just glad that its finally time to play."