Mark Dantonio

Michigan State and the burden of expectations (for fans)

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Hopes are high in East Lansing this week, as well they should be. Michigan State is coming off a Big Ten Championship and Rose Bowl victory, and in all likelihood would’ve played for the BCS Championship had 1) A few controversial pass interference penalties not been called against Notre Dame and 2) in the same game, had they not called a halfback pass that got picked off and led to Notre Dame scoring the go-ahead touchdown.

Those lofty expectations heading into 2014, though, will almost certainly lead to disappointment for the fanbase, writes the Lansing State Journal’s Graham Couch:

Life as an MSU football fan will probably never again be as satisfying as last season, for at least a generation.

That’s the harsh price of fulfilling dreams, for winning big and for joining the elite. There is little joy remaining in the small victories, and little room left to climb.

This stage in the Spartan program, as coach Mark Dantonio reiterated last week, is about “handling success.”

Try selling that T-shirt. Last year’s mantra, “Chase it,” had a far better ring.

MSU caught it. Now what?

I’ll relay my own experience with this: My freshman year at Mizzou was 2007, when the football team reached No. 1 in the country, Chase Daniel was a Heisman Trophy finalist and there were legitimate championship aspirations in Columbia. Mizzou returned Daniel, Jeremy Maclin, Chase Coffman, Sean Weatherspoon and a host of other talented players in 2008 and were a top-five team…before losing Oklahoma State at home. Mizzou went on to go 10-4 that year — a good season in Mizzou history, but one that felt incredibly disappointing given the preseason expectations.

Aiming low, though, is sort of a cheap defense mechanism. If you expect an 8-4 season and your team goes 10-2, the season feels better…but were you really excited about things in the first place? If your team went into a big game at, say 6-1, and you expect 8-4, you might not feel as crushingly disappointed by the loss as your fellow fans. Those gut-wrenching losses are as much a part of the fan experience as the big wins.

Couch makes some good points in his column and talked to some respected fan psychologists about expectations, and it’s certainly a compelling argument. But for a program like Michigan State, the opportunity to have championship/playoff expectations doesn’t come around very often, so take advantage of it while the opportunity’s there.

Because for all we know, the expectations for Sparty may go back to 9-3 or 8-4 in the near future.

South Carolina DB Ali Groves takes medical hardship, will remain on scholarship

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The injury-plagued career of a member of South Carolina’s secondary has officially come to an end.

USC officials confirmed to The State that Ali Groves will not return to the Gamecocks football team. The defensive back has taken a medical hardship waiver, making him ineligible to suit up again for the Gamecocks.

The Georgia native will, though, remain on scholarship. He’s expected to graduate later this year with a degree in business administration.

A three-star member of USC’s 2013 recruiting class, Groves was rated as the No. 47 safety in the country. Groves sustained a right shoulder injury his true freshman season, with the injury lingering over the next couple of seasons as well.

This past spring, Groves, who didn’t play a down for the Gamecocks, was moved from cornerback to safety. Twice in his career, Groves was named to the SEC Fall Academic Honor Roll.

Four-star 2017 QB Kellen Mond, an ex-Baylor commit, verbals to A&M

COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 31: Texas A&M Aggies mascot Reveille runs onto the field before a NCAA football game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Kyle Field on October 31, 2015 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Eric Christian Smith/Getty Images)
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Baylor’s recruiting loss will turn into another football program’s gain.  Again.

On his Twitter account Monday, 2017 quarterback prospect Kellen Mond announced that he has decided to verbally commit to play his college football at Texas A&M.  Mond had been considered the crown jewel of Baylor’s 2017 recruiting class after committing to the Bears in the summer of 2015, but opted to decommit less than a week after Art Briles was dismissed as BU’s head football coach.

Shortly after decommitting from Baylor, Mond announced a new Top 3: Auburn, Ohio State and A&M.  Those schools were listed in his order of preference at that moment, although the Aggies were, obviously, able to make up ground on the other two.

Mond visited College Station earlier this month, and, coupled with the Buckeyes landing a verbal from five-star quarterback Tate Martell — a former A&M commit, incidentally — had seemingly pared his choices down to the Tigers and Aggies.  According to his tweeted announcement, A&M’s “tradition of excellence,” along with the coaching staff, led him to his latest commitment.

Mond, a Texas native who is playing his senior season at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., is rated as a four-star prospect on 247Sports.com‘s composite board. That recruiting website rates him as the No. 4 dual-threat quarterback in the country and the No. 103 player overall.

Pitt joins trend of stadium-wide beer sales for football games

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Ohio State announced earlier this month that it would be offering cold beers to all of-age fans during football games this fall in The ‘Shoe.  A couple of weeks later, a fellow FBS member to the east has followed suit.

As part of its press release on new fan initiatives for the 2016 season, Pittsburgh announced that beer will be sold stadium-wide throughout Heinz Field this upcoming football season.  Prior to this season, alcohol sales were only permitted to those ticket holders in the club and suite sections of the stadium.

The first opportunity for fans to take advantage of the new policy is the home opener against Villanova Sept. 3.  The ACC opener Oct. 8 against Georgia Tech.

From the press release:

The expansion of this amenity will coincide with the implementation of appropriate safety measures for Pitt game days, ensuring the continuation of a fan and family friendly environment for all. (Such measures are already in place for Steelers home games. Aramark, Heinz Field’s official food and beverage concessionaire, provides comprehensive staff training in the sale of alcohol.) A portion of the funds from beer sales proceeds will be dedicated to drug and alcohol education programs for the overall student body through Pitt’s Division of Student Affairs.

According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, there are now nine Power Five members with a similar beer policy for football games.  One of the nine is West Virginia, with the Post-Gazette writing that athletic director Scott Barnes cited data from WVU “suggesting that beer sales in the stadium could actually cut down on alcohol-related incidents.”

Houston’s Howard Wilson granted medical hardship waiver

Howard Wilson
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Not surprisingly, one member of Houston’s secondary will get back the time he lost last season.

According to a press release from the Houston sports information department, Howard Wilson has been granted a medical hardship waiver for the 2015 season. Wilson sustained a season-ending torn ACL in the third game of 2015, making the decision to grant the waiver a no-brainer.

The waiver will extend Wilson’s eligibility clock through the 2018 season, and makes him a redshirt sophomore for the upcoming season.

As a true freshman in 2014, Wilson played in all 13 games, starting one of those contests. He had three interceptions that season.

Prior to his injury, he started the first three games of last season. He’s projected to start at one of the corner spots for the Cougars entering summer camp.