Week 1 of the college football season is usually filled with contests between major-conference powers and lesser schools that are completely outmanned. There are once again plenty of those matchups this Saturday, a few marquee games do dot the schedule as LSU and TCU provide a top-25 game at a neutral site: Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
LSU is hoping to embark on another SEC and BCS championship run and, in the process, squash the idea that this team will have a down year. The Tigers return eight starters on offense, including quarterback Zach Mettenberger, and have a new offensive coordinator with NFL veteran Cam Cameron. LSU usually wins with its defense, though, and only four starters from 2012 will be back on that side of the ball. The Tigers should be good this season, but great is the annual expectation.
TCU is hoping to win a conference title of its own and the Horned Frogs would like to prove they can compete against any big-time program in the country. With 16 starters back, the team will try to improve upon its 7-6 record a year ago and get back to a BCS game. Like LSU, the defense should be solid, but if they're going to win more games in 2013, the offense -- which ranked eighth in the Big 12 in scoring and total yards a year ago -- has to be better.
Rankings and records: In one of the few opening-weekend top-25 matchups. LSU enters ranked No. 13 in the preseason coaches' poll and TCU checks in at No. 20. The teams have played eight previous times -- LSU holds a 5-2-1 series lead -- but none since the Tigers defeated the Horned Frogs on Oct. 26, 1968.
Vegas: LSU opened as a 5-point favorite, but that's dropped to 4 or 4½ points at most sportsbooks. The over/under has increased from 43 to 50. For complete odds information on LSU vs. TCU, click here.
Weather: A low of 75 in the evening is pleasant enough, but that high of 100 will make things pretty miserable during the day.
Three names to know
Les Miles, LSU head coach: Everyone knows the Mad Hatter, but no one should overlook him during this game. LSU-TCU has the potential to be a tight, physical battle that could go down to the wire. If that happens, Miles' coaching decisions will no doubt be a storyline following the game. Whether the Tigers win or lose, some sort of bold decision or clock mismanagement from Miles could make the difference.
Devonte Fields, TCU DE: Will he play or won't he play? Fields is a preseason second-team All-American, and if he's on the field, he could have a huge impact on the game. He was suspended two games back in May for a violation of team rules, but Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson said recently Fields has "already done everything that the university has asked him to do" and that he'll be in uniform. Will he play? Patterson says we'll "find out at game time."
Cam Cameron, LSU OC: The Tigers have had great defense in recent years, but the offense has often left much to be desired. Last season, LSU averaged 374.2 yards and 29.8 points per game, ranking 10th and eighth in the SEC, respectively. Fans hope Cameron will use his years of NFL experience to turn the offense around, but nothing is guaranteed.
Two things at stake
For LSU, this game is all about getting off to a good start and pushing back against the perception that the Tigers are down this year. Many SEC and national pundits don't have a lot of faith in Les Miles' team this year and believe it will finish behind Alabama and Texas A&M in the SEC West. A big win would make people think twice about LSU.
TCU, on the other hand, is trying to make a different statement. The Horned Frogs are ranked No. 20 in the preseason USA Today Coaches' Poll and they want to show that last year's down season was the exception and not the rule in Big 12 play.
How to witness
TV: ESPN (Play-by-play: Brad Nessler, Analysis: Todd Blackledge, Sideline: Holly Rowe)
Radio: TCU: XM 86, LSU: XM 198
Online streaming: ESPN3