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.

Last year’s winner Ed Oliver one of eight semifinalists for Outland Trophy

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Another day (hour?), another award paring down its field of players eligible to win this year’s honor.

The latest to do as much is the Outland Trophy, with the award that is handed out annually to the nation’s top interior lineman on either side of the ball announcing the eight semifinalists for this year’s honor.  Headlining the most recent group is Houston’s Ed Oliver, who was the 2017 Outland winner.

Top-ranked Alabama (offensive tackle Jonah Williams, nose guard Quinnen Williams) and second-ranked Clemson (offensive tackle Mitch Hyatt, defensive tackle Christian Wilkins) accounted for half of the eight semifinalists.  The other three semifinalists not already mentioned are North Carolina State center Garrett Bradbury, Wisconsin guard Michael Deiter and Oklahoma guard Ben Powers.

Next week, this group of eight semifinalists will be pared down to three finalists.  The winner of the 2018 Outland Trophy will be announced during the Home Depot College Football Awards show on ESPN in early December.

Ohio State LB Baron Browning ruled out for Maryland game

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For the second straight week, Ohio State will be down a man in its linebacking corps.

Earlier this week, Urban Meyer listed Baron Browning as probable for Saturday’s game against Maryland.  Wednesday night after practice, however, the head coach confirmed that the linebacker will not play against the Terrapins.

Browning is dealing with an unspecified injury that sidelined the sophomore linebacker for the win over Michigan State this past Saturday.

Through eight games in 2018, Browning has been credited with 22 tackles, 3½ tackles for loss and a sack.  As noted by ElevenWarriors.com, Browning has been rotating in with Tuf Borland at the middle linebacker spot throughout the season.

A five-star 2017 signee, Browning played in a dozen games as a true freshman last year.

Western Michigan announces firing of DC Tim Daoust

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Tuesday night, Western Michigan was officially removed from MAC West contention.  Less than 24 hours later, WMU removed one of its top assistants.

Wednesday night, the Broncos announced that they have “parted ways” with defensive coordinator Tim Daoust.  The move comes after WMU gave up 42 points in a loss to a three-win Ball State team that came into the game 99th in the country in scoring (24.5 points per game).

All told, the Broncos gave up 51, 59 and 42 points in three straight losses that knocked them out of the West race and handed the division title to Northern Illinois.

“I appreciate Tim and his family’s dedication to the Bronco football family these past two seasons,” head coach Tim Lester said in a statement. “At this time I felt we needed to go in a different direction.”

This was Daoust’s second stint in Kalamazoo as he was an assistant with the Broncos from 2006-09.  Prior to this two-year stint at WMU, Daoust was the coordinator at Ball State.

Daoust will be replaced for the remainder of the year by defensive line coach and co-defensive coordinator Lou Esposito.  WMU, which is bowl-eligible for a school-record fifth-straight year, will close out the 2018 regular season against West champion NIU next Tuesday.

SEC lands three of five Bronko Nagurski Trophy finalists

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A conference known for its defense is front and center for an award that honors that side of the ball.

Of the five finalists for the 2018 Bronko Nagurski Trophy announced Wednesday by the Football Writers Association of America, three of them hail from the SEC — Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen, LSU safety Grant Delpit and Alabama nose guard Quinnen Williams.  The other two –Michigan linebacker Devin Bush, Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins — come from teams which are ranked in the top four of the most recent College Football Playoff rankings.

North Carolina State’s Bradley Chubb was the 2017 winner of the Nagurski.  Houston’s Ed Oliver was a finalist for that award and was eligible again this year, but a knee injury has sidelined him for the last three games and will likely keep him out for a fourth — if not longer.

The 2018 winner will be honored at a Dec. 3 ceremony in Charlotte.