It is tough for LSU to set reasonable goals after all that it has accomplished over the years. The Tigers have claimed two national titles since 2003, appeared in a few BCS bowls and have made at least 10 victories on a yearly basis the benchmark.
With the recruiting classes and the all-star coaching staff on the sideline, it is tough to tell this program to think logical. It is one of the few schools out there that can believe a national title is within reach every season.
But even with big dreams and gigantic expectations, reasonable goals must be set. It can't possibly be "championship or bust" every season. This is what LSU should shoot for in 2013, while anything extra is just the cherry on the sundae.
More Balance on Offense
LSU fans have spent the last decade asking Santa Claus for more balance on offense. The wish list never seems to make its way to the North Pole. The running game remains dominant, but the passing game has ranked in the bottom half of the SEC for four consecutive seasons. Last season the Tigers averaged barely 200 passing yards per game, which was lower than Vanderbilt, Missouri and eight other teams in the SEC.
This should all change.
LSU now has an offensive coordinator in Cam Cameron who won't be satisfied with running the ball down your throat for 60 minutes. Instead, he will install his famous Air Coryell offense, which is designed to open up the vertical game and produce larger passing plays. This doesn't mean the identity of the LSU attack will change, but it does open the door for more balance and a more effective offense.
Quarterback Zach Mettenberger also begin to find a rhythm last season, finishing three of the final five games with more than 250 yards. He also threw five of his 12 touchdown passes towards the end of the year, proving that he was starting to find himself and pick up confidence as the season went on.
There is no question the running game will remain the bread and butter with four offensive linemen and a handful of running backs returning. However, folks in Baton Rouge can finally expect to see better passing numbers and a more complete offense. It won't be Oregon-efficient, but it will be better than finishing 11th in the SEC in passing yards.
A Respectable Defense
Unless you are a biased LSU fan who actually bleeds purple and yellow, you must have worries about the defense. Yes, the talent will be there, but replacing six starters is a lot to ask of the coaching staff. Youth is a big issue with this unit, and it will take some time for guys to adjust.
We aren't talking about replacing a couple of role players. Six defensive players were selected in the first three rounds of the NFL draft. It doesn't matter what the reputation is of the coaching staff or how talented these young guys are. This isn't a video game where you just plug and play without missing a beat.
With that said, LSU does have the guys in place to keep things respectable. Anthony Johnson andwill provide a solid tandem on the defensive line. Linebacker is looking nice with Kwon Alexander coming back from injury and Deion Jones. The secondary has the potential to be the best in the SEC with Jalen Mills, and Craig Loston leading the way.
John Chavis is one of the best defensive coordinators of the last decade and always has his guys ready to play at a high level. LSU has had a top-three defense in the SEC the last three years, and even if that streak comes to an end, you can't possibly imagine this unit falling off completely.
LSU will have another great defense, but fans must remember that growing pains will come with the inexperience.
LSU has won double-digit games six of the eight seasons since Les Miles took over the program. Most of that success has come on the heels of an elite defense and a power running game that beats its opponents into submission. The formula for success remains intact, but if there was ever a year the Tigers take a step back, it would be this one.
You aren't sure what you are going to get out of the young defense. There is a new offensive system being installed, and the schedule is no cakewalk. Getting TCU off the bat will be a good measuring stick. Georgia on the road, Florida, at Alabama and Texas A&M near the end of the year are all tough matchups.
Miles and his staff have overcome many obstacles in the past, but it is important to remember we are discussing reasonable goals. It is quite possible the Tigers find a way to win 10 games and compete for a spot in a BCS bowl. However, nine victories would be considered a success given the circumstances.