ARLINGTON, Texas - In a rare opening matchup of top-five teams, both missing key players, Jarrett Lee admirably directed LSU's offense in place of suspended quarterback Jordan Jefferson.
Being without standout cornerback-punt returner Cliff Harris was more than mistake-prone and third-ranked Oregon could overcome.
The Ducks' fill-in punt returner had a fumble that led directly to an LSU touchdown and Lee's touchdown pass came against the defensive back playing in Harris' spot in the fourth-ranked Tigers' 40-27 victory Saturday night.
"I asked them to put to the perimeter all the things that could be considered distractions," LSU coach Les Miles said. "I enjoyed Jarrett Lee's gutty effort. I liked how the offense did the things they needed to do."
Already without the suspended Harris, the Ducks made things even harder on themselves with four turnovers — three that LSU converted into 20 points while building a 30-13 lead.
Highly touted freshman De'Anthony Thomas fumbled on consecutive touches late in the third quarter, one on a rushing attempt and then on the ensuing kickoff, and the Tigers took control with touchdown runs from Michael Ford and Spencer Ware in a span of less than 3½ minutes.
"Those are self-inflicted wounds," coach Chip Kelly said. "The drops, the turnovers and the penalties are the things that really killed us. Against a team like that, you're not going to win the game."
Harris, who can be found on most preseason All-America teams, was suspended in June after police caught him driving 118 mph, and also having a suspended license at the time.
The Tigers were also without receiver Russell Shepard, who was suspended for at least this game because he discussed another NCAA inquiry with a teammate. He was third in receiving and fourth in rushing for LSU last season.
Besides the legitimate national title hopes both teams had, they had a tie in ongoing NCAA investigations into their dealings with Willie Lyles, who ran a Houston-based service that provided scouting reports of high school players.
And this was the first season-opening game of top-five teams on a neutral field since 1984, when Jimmy Johnson won his debut as coach of Miami against an Auburn squad featuring Bo Jackson a year before he won the Heisman Trophy. There was a crowd of 87,711 at Cowboys Stadium, where LSU played its second consecutive game.
The Tigers ended their 2010 season on the Dallas Cowboys' home field in January with a 41-24 victory over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl when Jefferson passed for three touchdowns and ran for another score.
But Jefferson is now suspended indefinitely, as is reserve linebacker Josh Johns, because they are facing felony charges of second degree battery stemming from a bar fight near campus last month.
Plenty of subplots in this one.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
"We've had a lot on our minds as team coming into this game," Lee said. "It's not something that we wanted to happen. But you have to put that to the side and move forward."
Lee's 10th career start, his first since a win over Louisiana Tech in 2009, was far from spectacular. The senior completed only 10 of 22 passes for 98 yards, but didn't have an interception and appeared steady throughout the game.
The lone LSU turnover came when Lee stepped up toward the line to point out a pending blitz, at the same time the ball was snapped behind him. That set up Rob Beard's second field goal to give Oregon a 6-3 lead.
Oregon, which lost to Auburn in the BCS national championship game last season, has consecutive losses for the first time since they losing its last three regular-season games in 2007.
"This is going to show the character of this team, how hard we're going to come back and play after this loss," Ducks quarterback Darron Thomas said. "The offense had self-inflicted wounds all game."
CFT: Former Penn State signalcaller Steven Bench joined the South Florida Bulls, he announced on Twitter.
CFT: The University of Nevada is honoring longtime coach Chris Ault, who stepped down in the fall, by renaming the school's football field after him.
Video: Football from NBC Sports
HBO Real Sports: Bill O'Brien
Penn State football coach and 2012 National Coach of the Year shares the challenges in turning around a program shattered by scandal. Real Sports premieres Tuesday, May 21 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on HBO.
BCS title game
Pregame color, key plays and other moments from 'Bama's blowout win.
Check out the action from the postseason.
Check out which players were best of the best at each position.
Check out some of the college football cheerleaders from across the country.