This article is part of our "Summer Stock" series, a three-week look at the programs generating the most buzz coming out of spring practice.
Bill Walsh often said that setting high expectations is the most important thing a coach can do for his team. Athletes are like most people in that they will almost always try to raise their performance to the level their boss has set, so if a coach doesn't keep it as high as his players' talent levels, the team will almost certainly not reach its potential.
That probably explains why Auburn coach Gene Chizik has title aspirations for his team in 2011. "Our goal is championships, period," Chizik said at a recent Auburn alumni gathering. "It doesn't matter if we play with 22 freshmen. The goals have not changed. The expectation and standard have not changed. Anything less than a championship is not good enough."
Even the most positively aligned Auburn pundit would likely agree that the Tigers' current situation (Cam Newton and Nick Fairley leaving for the NFL, only six returning starters, a very rough schedule in arguably the nation's toughest division) makes a repeat BCS title game appearance highly unlikely.
The better question, then, is whether this team can make a run at the SEC West title. The answer at first glance appears to be no, but there are also several reasons why the Tigers shouldn't be counted out just yet.