High expectations and Michigan State typically don't mix, but things could change this fall.
For starters, the bar is being set highest inside the Skandalaris Football Center rather than by outsiders. During the team's preseason media day on Tuesday, several Michigan State players talked about the Rose Bowl, a place the program hasn't visited since Jan. 1, 1988.
When head coach Mark Dantonio stepped to the mic, he didn't underplay what he expects from the team this fall.
Here are a few excerpts:
"Top to bottom, I would say it's probably as talented a team as we've had. Certainly we've lost some good players in the past three years, but we have more depth. That should show and carry over."
"There's a little bit of a different feel with this football team. Maybe it's because it's primarily made up of guys who came in with this staff, have been here for a longer period of time. But everybody seems to be moving in the same direction. Usually I think when some negative things may have happened to you, whether it's losing a close game or something else beyond that, as we all know, that has a chance to make you a little bit more cohesive as a football team in the end. I think that's what you see happening."
"I expect to win every football game. Not ashamed to sit up here and say that. That's my expectations. We have talent to be able to play with anybody on our schedule. What we have to do is minimize mistakes, create opportunities for us in the other areas, special teams and on defense, and take care of the football. If we do those things and can play to our abilities, finish the game, we will have an outstanding football team."
"Expectations are higher for us. I think they're higher because of the way we've reacted to things. I think they're higher because I know we need to win back some respect. I understand that. We'll make our way through that."
Michigan State fell well short of expectations both on and off the field in 2009, but there are reasons to think this season will be different.
Kirk Cousins enters his second year as the starting quarterback and should limit some of the late-game mistakes that plagued him at times last fall. There's a ton of depth at the offensive skill positions and at linebacker. The secondary could experience addition by subtraction, and returning players like safety Trenton Robinson should benefit from going through a year in the spotlight.
Should we buy into Michigan State? Given recent history, I'm going to wait and see.
But it's more important that Dantonio and his players are raising not only expectations but the level of accountability from within the program. It'll be interesting to see if they can walk the walk this fall.