Michigan State and the burden of expectations (for fans)

3 Comments

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.

Minnesota losing CB Ken Handy-Holly to transfer

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Heading into spring practice, Minnesota will find its defensive secondary a bit thinner than it was when the curtain fell on the 2017 season.

A school spokesperson confirmed to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune that Ken Handy-Holly has been granted a release from his scholarship. 247Sports.com had previously reported that the safety was looking to transfer to be closer to family in Jackson, Ala.

A three-star member of the Gophers’ 2017 recruiting class, Handy-Holly was rated as the No. 38 safety in the country and the No. 28 player at any position in the state of Alabama. Only one signee in Minnesota’s class that year, offensive tackle Blaise Andries, was rated higher than Handy-Holly.

Because of injuries, Handy-Holly was pressed into action as a true freshman. He made his collegiate debut in a Sept. 30 loss to Maryland, and went on to play eight games total this past season.

In that action, Handy-Holly was credited with 12 tackles, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Arkansas QB Cole Kelley pleads guilty to DWI

Getty Images
Leave a comment

An off-field situation for one playing member of the Arkansas football program that began during the 2017 regular season has taken yet another step toward winding its way to a conclusion.

According to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Cole Kelley pleaded guilty Wednesday to driving while intoxicated.  While the quarterback was sentenced to 90 days in jail, 89 of those days were suspended while he was given credit for time served for the other.  Additionally, the Democrat-Gazette wrote, the 20-year-old Kelley “was also ordered to complete an alcohol safety class and pay $720 in fines and court costs.”

Kelley was arrested for DWI and reckless driving in November of last year. A day after the arrest, Kelley was indefinitely suspended by the football program and missed UA’s Week 12 game; he was subsequently reinstated after serving what amounted to a one-game suspension.

Austin Allen started the first five games of the 2017 season before going down with a shoulder injury. Kelley replaced him and started the next four, with a healthy Allen returning to his starting role for the remainder of the year.

On the season, Kelley completed almost 58 percent of his 151 passes for 1,038 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions.  The rising redshirt sophomore is expected to compete for the starting job in 2018 under new head coach Chad Morris.

Report: Steve Spurrier Jr. leaving WKU for job at Wazzu

Getty Images
Leave a comment

With coaching holes throughout his Washington State staff to fill thanks to significant offseason poaching, Mike Leach has added a very famous college football surname.  Reportedly.

According to the Bowling Green Daily News, Steve Spurrier Jr. is leaving Western Kentucky to take a job under Leach at Wazzu.  The son of College Football Hall of Famer Steve Spurrier just completed his first season as the Hilltoppers’ quarterbacks coach.  He also held the title of assistant head coach under Mike Sanford.

It’s unclear what specific title Spurrier Jr. will hold at Wazzu.

Prior to his one season at WKU, and one season as an off-field staffer at Oklahoma, Spurrier Jr. had been an assistant on his father’s South Carolina staff for 11 seasons.  During his time with the Gamecocks, he served at various points as wide receivers coach (2005-15), passing-game coordinator (2009-11) and co-offensive coordinator (2012-15).

Spurrier Jr., who played wide receiver at Duke, has also spent time during his coaching career as receivers coach at Oklahoma (1999-2001) and with the Washington Redskins (2002-03).

Ex-Texas All-Big 12 defensive tackle takes DL coaching job at Baylor

Getty Images
Leave a comment

Baylor’s latest coaching addition is a very familiar name in the state of Texas.

BU confirmed Wednesday evening that Frank Okam has been added to Matt Rhule‘s coaching staff.  Okam, who was a Freshman All-American and two-time All-Big 12 defensive tackle at Texas from 2004-07, will coach the Bears’ defensive line.

“Frank is a living embodiment of everything the young men in our program should want to accomplish,” the head coach said in a statement. “He’s a college graduate, an All-American, a Big 12 champion, a national champion, a NFL draft pick and then he continued life after football earning his master’s degree from Rice and is now one of the top young football coaches in the country.

“We are excited to have Coach Okam on staff and for him to mentor our defensive line group and help take them to the next level.”

The 32-year-old Okam, who went to high school in Dallas, spent the past four seasons at Rice, the last two as the Owls’ line coach.  This will mark Okam’s first coaching job at a Power Five program.