LANEY: Questions for a home opener

For many of the 90,000-plus fans who will pour into Tiger Stadium today, this year’s home opener comes with more question marks than maybe any LSU home opener in memory.

Certainly, part of the story is what is, without question, a talented college football team worthy of its No. 2 national ranking in the Associated Press poll. This team is all the buzz nationally this week after a resounding 40-27 season-opening win over Oregon. No doubt, this bunch is scary good.

But there are questions about the team’s fortunes that have nothing to do with what happens on the football field and that’s what makes this a strangely mysterious season.

It’s about suspensions, investigations and expansions, not speed, talent and experience, the usual worries.

For example, will the Will Lyles story sprout legs as it relates to LSU?

Who knows? LSU has handled it well to this point, but there’s no doubt that it could be trouble down the road for a problem already on probation. What LSU does not need to happen is any news, particularly negative news, as it relates to the school’s ties to the controversial Texas talent scout to surface during the season.

There may be nothing more to this story than what we already know -- that LSU paid Lyles for services that, on the surface, are above board. What’s in question is did anybody who contracted with Lyles really pay him for legitimate scouting, or was it for his influence with prospects, a potential NCAA violation.

This could become a huge story. Or, this may be the last you ever read of it as it relates to LSU this season. You just don’t know, but the cloud does hang overhead, a potential off-the-field X-factor to the season.

Another off-field issue: The fight that led to the arrest and indefinite suspension of quarterback Jordan Jefferson.

The question is, when will Jefferson come back?

Again, nobody knows. Meanwhile, Jarrett Lee settled into Jefferson’s quarterback spot and led the Tigers to the win over Oregon. If Lee continues to get the job done, the next question with Jefferson will become this: If and when he comes back this year, what will his role be?

Another good question.

One question we do now know the answer to is when Russell Shepard will come back from his suspension for violating an NCAA rule. That’s the West Virginia game, the season’s fourth game on Sept. 24.

But there are still questions surrounding that. Will the absence of the speedy wide receiver come back to haunt LSU at Mississippi State next week? And when he comes back, how long will it take the talented junior to get into the flow of the offense? Right away? Or will there be a couple of games before he hits his stride? And when he comes back, has he blossomed yet into a true wide receiver, or is he still the converted quarterback who shows growing pains at a relatively new position.

And when he comes back, what does that mean for a tough road game at Morgantown?

And speaking of that game, by the time LSU heads to West Virginia, will it be just a good non-conference game, or a preview of a future SEC rivalry?

That’s a small part of the big question that’s on everybody’s mind in college football: Where will conference realignment take us?

With Texas A&M seemingly headed down SEC way, we know there’s no way the league will stand still at 13 members. It will take at least one more school to get to 14 and possibly three more to get to 16, supposedly the same size as what the former Pac-10 is headed towards.

It seems like every major mid/south Atlantic school is on the rumor mill with this one: Virginia, Virginia Tech, Clemson. Florida State.

And, of course, West Virginia.

Where is this league headed? Certainly the SEC holds a lot of nice cards. But what that will ultimately mean is anybody’s guess.

It’s enough to make your head spin even without having too many rum and Cokes at tailgating.

But as you take your seat in the stadium and soak up the atmosphere, just know this:

It’s finally a Saturday Night in Tiger Stadium.

That alone will make the rest of the questions fade to the background.