HOTARD: LSU, Oregon trying to stay focused

When the Cowboys Classic kicks off two weeks from Saturday in Arlington, Texas, LSU and Oregon will square off in the most anticipated matchup of college football’s opening weekend.

But at the rate LSU and Oregon are making news these days, even Cowboys Stadium, with its 80,000 seats and its 60-yard-wide, high-definition video board, might not be big enough to fit all the story lines.

The latest of the off-field headlines involving the two programs came from LSU’s end. Baton Rouge police say they are investigating a fight early Friday morning outside an off-campus bar that reportedly involved senior quarterback Jordan Jefferson and other players.

No arrests have been made in the fight that had four people treated at a hospital with minor injuries, according to Sgt. Don Stone. In a written statement, LSU coach Les Miles acknowledged “some of our players were present,” but said he wasn’t clear on the extent of their involvement.

No matter how it plays out, the story from Friday is sure to follow the Tigers into the season opener.

More questions about stuff away from football. More distractions for an LSU program that seemingly had put a rocky off-season behind.

On July 19, the NCAA placed LSU on probation after the school self-reported “major violations” stemming from former assistant D.J. McCarthy’s recruitment of a junior-college player. Less than a week earlier, an NCAA official was on campus to interview LSU coaches about their involvement with scouting service owner Will Lyles, who in December received a $6,000 check from the school for information he provided on recruits.

Speaking of Lyles. ...

Oregon, which lost to Auburn in the BCS title game last season, has been accused of using Lyles to steer top-notch recruit Lache Seastrunk its way. The relationship with Lyles, who received a $25,000 payment from the school shortly after receiving Seastrunk’s national letter of intent, is the subject of an NCAA probe.

If only Oregon’s troubles ended there.

In June, cornerback Cliff Harris was cited for driving 118 mph on Interstate 5 near Albany, Ore., prompting coach Chip Kelly to suspend him indefinitely. Harris has not practiced with the Ducks and will not suit up for the LSU game.

Tuesday, video taken by a police dashboard camera revealed Oregon quarterback Darron Thomas was a passenger in the rental car Harris drove.

Thomas, who was also a passenger when Jeremiah Masoli was charged last summer with possession of marijuana and driving with a suspended license, said he was asleep when Harris was pulled over.

Kelly called Thomas “the leader of this football team” and said the junior will not face any disciplinary action.

When the big game outside Big D finally kicks off, the Ducks will surely be glad to see stories between the lines start taking shape.

They can look across the field to find a similar sentiment.