Displaced LSU opens season at Arizona State

JaMarcus Russell will start for fifth-ranked LSU at quarterback against No. 15 Arizona State on Saturday in Tempe, Ariz.

"I spoke to JaMarcus early this morning and he says everybody is fine out there," Russell's father, Bobby Lloyd, told ESPN's Joe Schad from Mobile, Ala. "It's real hot but the team is ready to play and ready to win one for New Orleans. To him, this game is bigger than a game."

LSU coach Les Miles had considered starting sophomore Matt Flynn or freshman Ryan Perrilloux. Last season, Russell played in 11 games, starting four.

Miles and his team have their game face on, a small miracle in itself given that the game was scheduled for Baton Rouge, La., and LSU officials didn't agree to move the game until Monday after their campus had been transformed into an evacuation center and medical headquarters following Hurricane Katrina.

The storm also wiped out LSU's opener on Sept. 3 against North Texas, now rescheduled for Oct. 29, so losing another home game was frustrating for a coach who left Oklahoma State for LSU last year. The relief of finally making a debut -- even in suburban Tempe, Ariz. -- was equally strong.

"This football team, like the state that they represent, has been through an enormous, difficult time," Miles said. "But they're ready to play."

Among the question marks for the Tigers, who finished 9-3 last year, is whether Russell can improve after passing for 1,053 yards and nine touchdowns while completing 50.7 percent in 11 games, including five starts.

LSU also lost Alley Broussard, its top ball carrier, to a knee injury, but the Tigers return three players who have rushed for more than 100 yards in a game. They and Russell will benefit from working behind six regulars on the offensive line, including 6-foot-7, 325-tackle Andrew Whitworth, who could become the first player in school history to start 50 games.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.