Jarrett Lee may very well give the Tigers a nice breath of fresh air, but he's nowhere close to being the same kind of impact player Darron Thomas is for the Ducks. When the Oregon offense is really clicking, which it did for 530.7 total yards and 47 points a game in 2010, it's because Thomas is making good decisions and keeping defenses off-balance. If play outplays Thomas, that's a huge boost for LSU.
Running back: Oregon
The combination of Spencer Ware, Alfred Blue and Michael Ford might wind up being among the best in the SEC this season, but those three don't trump Ducks' start LaMichael James and dangerous backup Kenjon Barner. The speedy junior led the nation last season with 1,731 rushing yards on the way to winning the Doak Walker Award and scored 21 touchdowns. He was also an important component to LSU's passing game with 17 catches for 208 yards and three more scores. If James has a day anything like he did most of last season, LSU's defense will be in major trouble.
Though the Tigers don't have much experience at receiver, Rueben Randle and DeAngelo Peterson give LSU a better 1-2 combination than the Ducks – who are also young here – can offer up. The Tigers need both to find some openings and produce big plays to balance a power running game and there are plenty of candidates to step in and fill that role.
Offensive line: LSU
LSU has five healthy veterans who have started at least two games each in an SEC game and a five-star recruit in La'el Collins learning on the job. Oregon is looking to rebuild its line and scrambled for much of pre-season camp to fill in a unit slammed by graduation. Not even a close contest here.
Defensive line: LSU
Similarly to the o-line, the Tigers have a major experience advantage along the defensive front and a decided talent edge as well. If the LSU defensive-end quartet of Sam Montgomery, Kendrick Adams, Barkevious Mingo and Lavar Edwards is anywhere near as good as advertised and are able to consistently take the edges away from Thomas and James and not let them roam free in the second and third levels, the Ducks will have to find yards somewhere else.
This is the shakiest area of the Tigers' defense, simply because of who they lost in Kelvin Sheppard. But the presence of senior Ryan Baker alone gives them the nod. Even with all the talent around him, Baker is a key cog of the LSU defense as a leader and for his tools. Whether it's Karnell Hatcher or Stefoin Francois next to Baker, LSU will have more experience here than the Ducks.
This is the part of the Oregon defense with a strong veteran presence in safety John Boyett and rover Eddie Pleasant – who ranked second and fifth on the team, respectively, last season with 78 and 65 tackles. Boyett was also a demon in pass defense with five interceptions. Even those numbers pale compared to what LSU has in the defensive backfield, with three of the team's top athletes and 4-5 who will get a shot in the NFL someday. Morris Claiborne and Tharold Simon are both capable of locking down receivers one-on-one, Tyrann Mathieu is always in position to pester ball carriers and the safety trio of Brandon Taylor, Eric Reid and Craig Loston give LSU an athletic edge against just about any team the Tigers face. It will take a special crew to one-up LSU in this category this season.
Special teams: Oregon
The Ducks get the nod here simply because they have some proven commodities back – kicker Rob Beard (10-13 FG, 97 points), punter Jackson Rice (36-yard average) and return men Josh Huff (24.7-yard average on kickoffs) and Kenjon Barner, who fills in for suspended Cliff Harris. LSU will be very solid on special teams this season, but there's a lot to prove this early in the season.