The Oregon Ducks and LSU Tigers are set to face off against one another on September 3, in a game that was supposed to be on the of the most-anticipated season-opener in recent memory. Unfortunately, an off-season filled with issues came to its head on Friday, when two LSU football players – including starting quarterback Jordan Jefferson – were suspended indefinitely after being arrested for second-degree felony charges.
Jefferson and teammate Joshua Johns (LB) turned themselves in Friday morning after Baton Rouge police issued a warrant for their arrest. Both players are charged with second-degree battery, a felony under Louisiana state law, stemming from a bar fight last Thursday night. The fight included 15-20 LSU football players, but Jefferson and Johns are the only players to face charges thus far.
The fight resulted in four victims being hospitalized, including one who suffered a fractured vertebrae, an extremely serious injury. Serious fractured vertebraes can result in neurological effects, such as paralysis, pinched nerves, and death. Just over a week after the fight, it appears that the victim with the fractured vertebrae has not suffered from any such problems to this point, although little has been reported.
The matter at hand is very serious, and should be considered in that light. But, at the end of the day, I am a college football writer, and now is the time for me to do what I’m paid to do, and that’s to step back and look at this from a football standpoint.
The Oregon-LSU showdown was supposed to be a Pac-12 vs. SEC showcase, with the Ducks representing a conference that’s been overshadowed (along with every other conference) by the SEC for the past decade. Oregon beat Tennessee early last year to give the Pac-10 some respect over the SEC, but the Volunteers fell to a lowly 6-7 record, with no wins against ranked opponents.
The Ducks then had an opportunity to upend the SEC in the biggest game of the year – the BCS National Championship. But a disciplined Auburn defense largely shut down an Oregon rushing attack that had been so dominant in the Pac-10, ultimately ending in a 22-19 defeat to Cam Newton’s squad.
That’s why so many folks – specifically Pac-12 supporters – had September 3 circled on their calendars from the moment the Ducks lost on January 10. Oregon would take the off-season to work out some kinks, and come better prepared for their battle against LSU.
But, much like the Ducks in 2010, the Tigers have run into off-the-field issues in 2011. Their new offensive coordinator was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, forcing him to take a reduced role with the team (as their quarterbacks coach.) The Willie Lyle’s scandal (which is also hitting the Ducks) ended up landing Russell Shepard an indefinite suspension after he discussed an NCAA inquiry with a teammate – which is an NCAA and LSU violation.
Then came the news Friday, and now LSU will take on Oregon without their starting quarterback. Those who keep a close on college football, though, know that new starter Jarret Lee is almost as equally capable of running the Tigers’ offense as Jefferson is, so the competetion should still be high.
Nevertheless, the Ducks (and the Pac-12) are now in a no-win situation.
If the Ducks beat LSU, Tigers fans (and SEC supporters) now have an easy cop-out: “Oregon didn’t beat LSU,” they’ll say. “They beat LSU’s backups.” And if LSU wins, Tigers fans (and SEC supporters) can hold it over Ducks fans (and Pac-12 supporters) forever, saying, “Oregon couldn’t even beat our backup squad,” with evidence of the September 3rd game forever available.
Had none of these suspensions happened, and had Oregon beat LSU on September 3, Ducks fans and Pac-12 fans would have always had a legitimate victory to point out as evidence of how the West Coast is on its way up. Instead, though, the LSU suspensions have turned the showdown in Cowboys Stadium into something far different than it was originally supposed to be.
And that’s just too bad.
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© 2011 Max Price – All Rights Reserved.
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Max also covers the Portland Trail Blazers and Pacific University Boxers for joltleft.com. In addition, he covers all sports in Oregon for OregonSportsNews.com.