Column: As fan expectations peak, the Spartans are ready to deliver
In the mind of any and every Spartan fan, this 6-1 start has been a dream; a fairytale that hasn’t quite ended yet. Even the optimists would have never predicted such a bounceback for head coach Mark Dantonio’s team.
And how could they? MSU looked absolutely awful last season; coughing up leads to the tune of 3-9 and the cellar of the Big Ten. That’s well-documented, I won’t beat a dead horse.
So let’s speak of this new MSU team – holy shit.
The Spartans have bullied their opposition on defense, a bruising style of play Dantonio has ushered in. Sure, the offense has been streaky to say the least, but with a young wideout core and a redshirt sophomore quarterback, that’s no surprise.
Sprinkle in a healthy dosage of perfect Big Ten play, you have the recipe for a team that controls its own destiny. Oh, and MSU fans will surely remember to point out their win over hated in-state rival Michigan.
If you want to nitpick that one loss to No. 9 Notre Dame, be my guest. I’m sure you’re fun at parties.
But no matter. This has been a successful season — at least thus far — by any metric.
The fan and pundit expectations have now soared, chatter associated as the Spartans continue to slowly climb up the AP poll.
Following 3-9, all the MSU faithful was hoping for was a bowl game, preferably somewhere warm to escape the wraths of a Michigan winter.
Compared to the glory days, those are supremely low expectations. Bowl games were once considered the lowest threshold for the Spartans, but those days were no more.
A 7-5 season would’ve been seen as a solid success; faith slowly restored in Dantonio and his program. Naturally, 8-4 would have been a step better, but not many in East Lansing realistically thought the Spartans would get even there.
A fan base, one so drunk on the success of its Spartans, were humbled. The hangover from that high was an almost welcome change-of-pace, a different vibe surrounding the football squad.
But now, over halfway done with the season, the hype, the murmurs of a Big Ten East crown — and beyond — are overflowing. There’s no ignoring what this fan base wants.
MSU fans want to go back to those glory days. It sounds a little greedy, but it’s a natural reaction to being a sports fans.
And those hopes, dreams that the Spartans hold on their shoulders, they’re trivial. They’ve already long accepted those lofty goals.
Even when the doubters and criticism were at their respective peaks, they’ve never backed down from that challenge.
There’s certainly smoke coming from this MSU team, though no fire has been located. Those cracks in the armor, the very fair criticisms of one of the youngest teams in the nation, should have a fan base worried, subconsciously at least.
But at the end of the day, the Spartans’ goals are still ahead of them. And they’re plenty talented to make a run at the Big Ten crown.
So as fans optimistically look at hotel prices for Indianapolis, the Spartans are certainly expecting to deliver. Shocking the nation is a Dantonio staple, and he's sure to have a little left in the tank.