I've tried twice to write about this season and failed. I typed about a thousand words of nonsense and was left with a bunch lengthy paragraphs focused on tiny details probably not worth obsessing over. There were introspective questions scattered throughout that I hoped to answer, but were left as out of place transitions.
What has Virginia Tech football become?
Right now, it's a mediocre program. Florida State and Clemson are the cream of the ACC. Tech's fighting, and losing to, UNC and Miami for third place in a conference they, not so long ago, dominated. The 2012 season will be remembered more for (mostly awful) uniform combinations, rather than what happened on the field.
There's an identity crisis in Blacksburg. Tech doesn't bully opposing defenses anymore. Pride and Joy no longer produces momentum shifting blocked kicks. A kamikaze defense that created havoc and forced quarterbacks into making mistakes has been watered down with a safer bend but don't break style of play. Frank Beamer's program isn't broke beyond repair, it's just too focused on everything that didn't make it special.
The truth is hard to swallow, but that's where we're at.
What do you want Virginia Tech football to be?
When critiquing games, or talking about the program, I've always tried to keep realistic expectations in mind. Unofficially these have been to beat Virginia, and play for the ACC Championship (win the Coastal Division). The program's ultimate goal is to stuff that empty trophy case with crystal. That's not to say it's capable of doing so every season, the 2010 team was the only one since '99 I thought it was fair to expect a national championship appearance from, but I do believe Tech football should always be getting better, inching towards that goal, because that's something Beamer Co. can control. As a whole, the program didn't regress this year, it coasted, and it was damn frustrating to watch.
One of the things on my to-do list this offseason was to pick a goal for the 2013 season, put it down in black and white, and as writer hold myself accountable to it while discussing the team and program. I wish I had done this last season. I wouldn't have struggled to put ugly wins, and tough losses in context because I could have put the topic du jour up against said goal. It's a new year today, and football season is a long 8 months away, but the goal is to beat Alabama, and as a fan I'm not going to shy away from that.
In fact, I'm going to embrace it. Whether it's something I write, the way I end a phone call with my mom who doesn't even know we're playing Alabama, what I chat with Furrer4Heisman about online, or talk to French about over a plate of ribs, I'm going to talk about beating Alabama every day between now and kickoff.
To some of you, this may seem like an unreasonable or short-sighted goal. Nick Saban is the best coach in college football. Alabama is the very definition of a powerhouse. Right now they're the only program in America that reloads talent; they don't rebuild. The Tide has the SEC, the best conference in America, in a headlock, and is probably going to win its third national championship in 4 years Monday night.
With all of that said, I believe we can go down to Atlanta and beat Alabama. Our players are capable of outworking Alabama's and winning the offseason. Bud Foster will have the personnel he needs to attack, and win a defensive struggle. The workhorse tailback we desperately needed this season can't redshirt again. Obviously this argument requires more than 3 sentences to convince any naysayers, but my hope is by August 31st I'll have y'all believing we have more than a puncher's chance.
You may be thinking, "So Joe, we beat Alabama, then what? There are 11 more games." If the players dedicate themselves 100% to beating Alabama in the weight room this winter, on the field during spring ball, and during conditioning this summer, they will be prepared to play every other team on the schedule.
The only closure I got from the 2012 season is that there will be a 2013 one, and the goal is to beat Alabama.