The LSU Tigers go into the 2011 season with much optimism, loads of talent, new faces and some changes.
The goal is set as a BCS championship, and Tigers fans will see anything less as a missed opportunity.
There are many stories and answers to questions to look forward to as the season approaches, but they all stem down to one thing. Are we going to be better than last season?
Improvement is the key. The Tigers had success in 2010 but fell just short of the ultimate goal: BCS glory.
The BCS title game returns to the Louisiana Superdome in January 2012, and the LSU Tigers and their fans hope that the trophy stays in the state after the game.
Unfortunately, the 2011 season is getting kicked off with pay-to-play allegations against Patrick Peterson and Willie Lyles, a scouting service owner from Houston, Texas.
Former Texas A&M cornerbacks coach Van Malone is claiming that Lyles told him that other schools were offering in the neighborhood of $80,000 to land Peterson, a top recruit in 2007.
Malone, now a recruiter for Tulsa, says that he did not report Lyles to A&M compliance authorities because he wanted to continue recruiting Peterson without the help of Lyles’ service.
The timing of the allegations is a little suspicious to say the least, four years after the alleged violation and less than one month from the NFL Draft, where Peterson is projected to go high in the first round.
Peterson had denied having any relationship with Lyles and says that he was never offered and never received any money from LSU.
The Tigers open the season in the same place that they closed out the 2010 season as they travel to Fort Worth, Texas to take on national champion runner-ups Oregon in Cowboy Stadium.
The game will be a game not normally seen in Week 1 of the college football season, as both teams should start the season ranked in the top five.
If LSU can survive Week 1, there should be a nice No. 1 ranking awaiting them in week two.
Hopefully, Miles will be able to rest most of the starters in what should be a blowout against Northwestern State in week two because his team will have to take on Mississippi State on Thursday night with only four days rest.
Week four gets no easier, as the Tigers play another ranked out-of-conference opponent on the road as they travel to Morgantown to take on West Virginia.
LSU goes into spring practices with a big decision to make at the quarterback position.
Incumbent starter Jordan Jefferson seems to be making strides in his development and looks poised to maintain his starting role.
Newcomer Zach Mettenberger is also having a good spring and should continue to push Jefferson.
The real winner in this battle is the Tiger fanbase who has watched the offense struggle to move the ball for the past two seasons.
Any increase in production from the quarterback position makes the Tigers that much more of an SEC and BCS contender.
Besides a change, or improvement at the quarterback position, the Tigers will be running a new, and hopefully improved, offense under new offensive coordinator Steve Kragthorpe.
If the Tigers are able to move the chains more consistently than they have in the past two seasons and use more of the clock on offense, it should help to improve an already stellar defense.
Head coach Les Miles is confident that the change will improve the Tiger offense and the anxious LSU fans are hoping he is right.
The Tigers have won the last two BCS National Title games played in the Louisiana Superdome.
An unfair advantage? Possibly.
They are poised to do it again in 2011 with loads of talent and a schedule that leaves no doubt about their BCS ranking should they lose less than two games.
Tiger fans are hopeful that their team can bring home a third BCS title in eight years and be the sixth straight SEC team to win the title.
A good record in September will put the Tigers on pace to run the tables in the SEC if they can get past Alabama in Tuscaloosa in November.