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Differentiating between hope and high expectations

There's expectations among some that Mississippi State should win nine or ten games this season. While it's great to be hopeful for such, making it an expectation is a dangerous way to go into the 2014 season.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

For most of us, July and August are excruciating.  After July 4th, we're on the downhill side of the off-season and heading full speed into another wonderful fall of college football.  We find ourselves dissecting every position, every opponent, every inch of information on our team's upcoming season in an effort to make the days go by faster to get Labor Day weekend here quicker.

But this process, carried out in a downtime that is otherwise filled with scorching temps and grass cutting, can also produce tumultuous results.  In looking over our team's schedule and our returning starters, we can sometimes have that 'Eureka!' moment where we are convinced that this team could really have a special season.  And they can; that's the beauty of each new season: That it brings something fresh and new for everyone from the 14-0 Seminoles on down to the 2-10'ers from 2013.  But I'm here to tell you, fellow MSU fans, about the dangers of climbing too high with expectations in the off-season.

In spots over the summer, I've witnessed proclamations of MSU's guaranteed ten-plus win season in 2014.  While I take some with the sarcastic grain of salt that they were meant to be taken with, I've noticed some that were truly of a convinced nature.  I honestly don't think it's wholly representative of a majority of the fan-base, but there is a growing momentum inside the MSU fanbase with every Dak hype article and every look at the schedule that things could really be special this season.  And they can be.  The elements -- schedule, returning talent, coaching -- are all there, so why not be excited as a Mississippi State fan?  We all should be.  I certainly am. But I am also of the opinion that it is dangerous to go into the season expecting those ten wins, rather than being cautiously hopeful that they become a reality.

That's my only reason for writing this today; not to discourage fans from hoping for a big season but in hopefully convincing at least one fan that high expectations are volatile, and should be avoided at all costs.  The difference comes down to this for me: I am hopeful for a big year, but I'm not going in expecting MSU to run roughshod through the toughest division in college football.  I know State returns nearly everyone from 2013, and I know that if -- there's that word, IF -- MSU can overcome past struggles against ranked teams, this season could be more than just another '8-4 and a New Year's Eve date with the CUSA' kinda season. As a 25+ year State fan, just having the expectation that we'll go 8-4 is a privilege to me.  Our football history, especially when I was in college, lends me to be easy to please when we start talking about what I'd like to see from our team "this season."

With that being said, I understand the want for more.  For State to take a step further.  It's only natural.  I mean, we wouldn't be doing our jobs as fans if we didn't want to go from the level we're on (7-5, 8-4) to the one above us; the one where the Alabama's and LSU's hangout.  But I am cautious at expecting to get to that level this season.  I hope we do, but I won't go as far to say that I expect us to.  People expected 2001's team to do big things, and look how that turned out.  The same could be said for 2008, and we all remember how that went down.  Rest assured this year's team is neither of those, but the imprint of those seasons is still upon me as a fan, and it makes me naturally hesitant to proclaim big things.

In the end, you are free to go about your fandom as you please.  That's the beauty of being a fan: You can be as boisterous and blatant or as cautious and conservative as you want.  All I'm trying to convince all of you to do is be hopeful, not expecting.  Trust in the abilities of Dak Prescott, Jameon Lewis, Bernardrick McKinney, but don't predict 4,500 passing yards, a Heisman, and 150 tackles.  Hope that we beat the A&M's and the Auburn's, but don't boldly predict it.

The great thing about managing expectations is that when you exceed them, you're never disappointed.  Cambridge's American English definition for cautious optimism is "a feeling that you can be hopeful about a situation although you realize that there still could be problems." That sums up my fandom perfectly, and how I'm going into this season.  I'm hopeful that State can exceed the status quo of these past few seasons, and I trust that Dan Mullen and company can do so.  Now as a cautious fan, I just need to see it.

Hail State