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LSU and Oregon Meet in a Game That Confuses Expectations

LSU Tigers vs. Oregon Ducks (Arlington), 8 p.m. ET, ABC

Of all the SEC games this weekend, this might be the hardest to get a read on. After all, the Willie Lyles quasi-scandal has rocked both programs in a way, and most of the headlines about LSU is recent days have focused on whether Jordan Jefferson kicked another person in the head. Needless to say, this is not exactly how you want to introduce your football program to a national audience.

Both teams get another shot at that tonight. A win would make the winner the next-logical candidate should Oklahoma or Alabama falter on the road to the national title, and the brief life of the BCS has presented plenty of evidence that No. 3 is really the catbird seat. For Oregon, it would quiet the questions about whether the Ducks are primed for another unlikely run for the biggest bowl; for LSU, it would get rid of the whispers that the program is unstable and discard the nascent notion that Les Miles faces a seat as hot as his temper.

Oregon returns much of the offensive firepower that drove the Ducks to the title game last year, though they lose some key contributors at wide receiver. As for LSU, they're going to win nine or ten games nearly every year, at least in part because of whatever mixture of confidence and luck that makes Les Miles the unlikeliest of national championship-winning coaches.

LSU is in for a bit more of an overhaul, but anyone who has bet against the talent Nick Saban and then Les Miles have brought to Baton Rouge is short some money right now. And the defense should be solid despite the changes, though whether they can slow down Oregon's formerly point-a-minute offense is another question.

When  you've already predicted this game as a loss for LSU, the confidence-building step that you need to reverse the pick is not word that Jarrett Lee will start. Unless it comes down to a fake field goal, Oregon wins. But there's no guarantee that it won't come down to a fake field goal.

Oregon 31, LSU 28