Coming off a nine-win season may be good enough for some college football programs, but not for the LSU faithful. Since the Tigers bid farewell to Gerry DiNardo at the end of the 1999 season and welcomed Nick Saban in 2000, LSU has been a powerhouse program consistently competing for SEC and national championships.
The end of the Les Miles era overlapping into Ed Orgeron's tenure has produced solid seasons, but over the past four years the Tigers have failed to reach double-digit wins. Could this be the year LSU reclaims its former glory or will Orgeron find himself on the hot seat in his just his second full season as the head Tiger?
LSU always plays a tough schedule, not only being a member of the SEC West but opening this season against ACC power Miami. So if a division title is in the cards, which increases the chances of getting into the College Football Playoff, the Tigers will have to navigate a tough slate. The Bayou Bengals do get some breaks along the way in the form of some favorable matchups in Tiger Stadium.
12. Sept. 8 vs. Southeastern Louisiana
Get ready to learn the names of all the second- and third-string players on LSU's roster.
11. Nov. 17 vs. Rice
The Owls were 1-11 last season coming out of Conference USA. A nice game to rest players after a strenuous eight-game stretch ahead of the regular-season finale against Texas A&M in College Station.
10. Sept. 22 vs. Louisiana Tech
Ed Orgeron's biggest sin in 2017 was losing 24-21 at home to Troy. All the Louisiana born and raised players on the Bulldogs' roster will use that as motivation for another improbable uprising. If all is going well for LSU in 2018, this should be over at halftime. If there is any sort of trouble in Baton Rouge, this game will signal troubles for the heart of the SEC schedule.
9. Oct. 20 vs. Mississippi State
Both LSU and Mississippi State may limp into this one. The Tigers will have just hosted Georgia and MSU leaves Davis Wade Stadium after back-to-back games against Florida and Auburn. This will be the first big road test for new Mississippi State head coach Joe Moorhead, with all due respects to Kansas State and Bill Snyder.
8. Sept. 29 vs. Ole Miss
This is a potential trap game for LSU. It's the second of back-to-back home games, but with a trip to Gainesville looming. If the Rebels stay healthy, their offense will be prolific, but can their defense keep pace?
7. Nov. 10 at Arkansas
A road game in Fayetteville after squaring off against Alabama is never easy. A win here, no matter how the season has played out to this point, and Orgeron still has the faith and trust of his players. Arkansas figures to be improved on defense with former LSU defensive coordinator John Chavis taking over. How good the Razorbacks' offense will be under new head coach Chad Morris is anyone's guess.
6. Nov. 24 at Texas A&M
LSU's seven-game win streak against the Aggies will be put to the test in 2018. Jimbo Fisher has moved from Florida State to College Station, bringing along a pro-style offense and a new look on defense under coordinator Mike Elko. Both teams have the feel of being in transition, making this a toss-up contest for LSU on the road.
5. Oct. 6 at Florida
The Gators are another team in transition. But, if following college football has taught any of us anything since 2009, a Dan Mullen-coached team is a well-coached team. One could argue that Mullen has done more with less talent than any other head coach in college football over the past nine years. Now he inherits a talent-laden Gators squad hungry for a SEC East title.
4. Oct. 13 vs. Georgia
Congratulations, LSU! After playing Miami, Auburn, Ole Miss and Florida you get to take on Georgia. The Bulldogs played for a national title last season, and are a heavy favorite for at least a return trip to the SEC Championship Game based on their schedule. The Tigers might be Georgia's first big test of the season and get the Bulldogs at home.
3. Sept. 15 at Auburn
Anyone who is quick to dismiss Auburn's 10-4 season in 2017 will be in for another rude awakening this fall. The Tigers' defense is set to be as good as any in the nation, and the offense could have a Heisman Trophy candidate in quarterback Jarret Stidham. Auburn's key to success will be replacing three senior offensive linemen. If head coach Gus Malzahn gets the line gelling - watch out for these Tigers.
2. Nov. 3 vs. Alabama
From a matchup standpoint, this is clearly the toughest game on the Tigers' schedule. LSU last beat Alabama during the 2011 regular season, meaning the Crimson Tide have won the past seven meetings. Over the last three, Bama has won by a total of 38 points. Putting points on the board against the Crimson Tide is one of the reasons why Orgeron hired Steve Ensminger as his new offensive coordinator. Ensminger better have this offense humming by the time Alabama comes to town. At least the Tigers get the defending national champions after a bye week and in Death Valley.
1. Sept. 2 vs. Miami (Arlington, Texas)
While many LSU fans will disagree with Alabama not being in this spot, the opener with the Hurricanes in AT&T Stadium is the tone-setter for the season. A loss to Miami and then another loss to Auburn in Week 3, LSU will be 1-2 to start the year - not a good spot for "Coach O." A win against Miami pads the resume, giving Orgeron a little wiggle room against another tough SEC schedule.
For those doubting Miami, don't forget the 'Canes are led by former Georgia head coach Mark Richt and are coming off a 10-3 season that included an ACC Coastal Division title and a spot in the Orange Bowl.
-- Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.