Simply put, teams must avoid injuries, the ball has to bounce favorably when it matters, and off-the-court problems must be kept to a minimum.
In the case of LSU, which has national-championship ambitions, it comes out of the first week of practice already having to deal with a major injury.
Gone for the season is leading rusher Alley Broussard, out with a knee injury three weeks before the first game.
LSU knows what it's like to replace a running back. In the national-championship season of 2003, the most significant injury of the year was to Addai, which simply opened the door for Vincent and Broussard to become unexpected freshmen stars. For that matter, Vincent was named MVP of both the SEC Championship Game and the Sugar Bowl, the national-championship game.
Then last year, with Vincent never up to par, LSU's running game hardly suffered as Broussard prospered. Accordingly, it was not surprising Sunday at LSU media day that sixth-year offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher made it clear there was no reason to sound an alarm.
He listed the attributes of Vincent, Carey and Addai and said simply, "all have been game tested, not just talent tested."
And all passed.
There really wasn't a whole lot to garner from hearing first-year head coach Les Miles at media day. For example, when asked about Broussard's injury, he said the he's lost for the season and wouldn't elaborate out of his concern for privacy for the young man.
There was no new light shed on the quarterback battle between JaMarcus Russell, Matt Flynn and Ryan Perrilloux, although Miles reiterated that he wants just one of them to emerge and play the entire season.
He did cancel Sunday morning's practice, which no doubt helped the mood for media day. There's no other gathering like it in football season, in which most of the interviews are light-hearted and everyone is available and everyone is undefeated.
To stay that way, LSU will not only have to play extremely well, but have to avoid injuries. There's really no way to prevent them, because it's a sport in which the idea is to hit someone as hard as you can, often in practice.
As Miles himself said, "It's impossible to practice football and not sustain some contact … Injuries happen. It's football."
Breaks are another thing. There's often a fine line between winning and losing (LSU fans should reference the Gerry DiNardo era), where a bounce here or there or a call that's made or not made can change an entire season.
To wit: The extra point against
We'll never know, of course, but that's one of the beauties of this time of year. You don't know much, but everyone's undefeated, LSU has had, thankfully, just one injury of note, and the ball hasn't had a chance to bounce funny yet.