Like everyone else, I was extremely unhappy with the events against Virginia. Believe me, I have plenty of issues with how things went and I am frustrated with how things have gone this season.With the benefit of 48 hours to cool down, however, I've tried to get some perspective on this season. I definitely don't want to sound too pollyanna-ish, but the following are the things that have kept my spirits from crashing.
First, despite the team failing to reach a number of goals that I felt were very realistic and reachable before the season (ACC title, 10 wins), there is still one key goal left that the team can accomplish: a state championship. With truly great rivalries, a season can be deemed something of a success no matter what happens the rest of the season if you beat your rivals, and especially if you beat your archrival. UF is Florida State's archrival. If Florida State can beat UF, on top of a win over Miami, then to me the season is something of a success, never mind not reaching some of the other goals.
Second, this team is young and Fisher is bringing in even more elite talent. If you've paid attention in the past few games, the TV commentators have a couple of times used the phrase "yet another freshman" when talking about some Seminole player making a play and marveling at all the young players for FSU. The frustration of this season does raise some questions, but here's a fact: this team's best football is ahead of them.
Whatever doubts you may be having about the coaching staff, remember this: LSU won 40 games and a BCS title in four years with Gary Crowton as their offensive coordinator. Teams with elite talent will usually win their fair share of games no matter what. Yes, we want more than just winning a "fair share" of games. But given the level of improvement Mark Stoops has shown in his two years of taking FSU from one of the worst defenses in the country to one of the best, and given that Jimbo has shown in past years that he can get an offense working, it is far too soon to give up on the coaching staff's ability to take this program back to championship-quality football.
Finally, as frustrating as this season has been, think about this: if the offense had scored three more points in every loss and the defense allowed just 3 points less in every loss, this team is 10-1 and we are having a very different discussion today. This team is 1-3 in games decided by 6 points or less. The outcome of most games decided by 6 points or less can be changed on essentially one play. One less major defensive error against Clemson and maybe that game has a different result. One less major offensive error against Wake Forest, and maybe that game has a different result. The team punches it in from the 1 yard line or doesn't get sacked at a terrible time or doesn't get caught from behind at the 1 or doesn't miss a field goal - just one of those things - and the result against Virginia is probably different.
Yes, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. And Jimbo MUST get this team to cut out the silly mistakes and play at a higher mental level. But again: this team's best football is ahead of them. No matter what doubts you are feeling today about the path that this team is on, given all the youth on both sides of the ball, it is hardly a high bar to set for next season that the offense be 3 points per game better and the defense be 3 points per game better. Just by virtue of having a year of experience (and weightlifting) for the offensive line the offense should be able to manage that - before we even factor in improvement that should come with more experience at all the skill positions. Our right tackle will be old enough to vote next season! Fisher has a lot of things to clean up, he's going to have to self-evaluate to figure out where the team's mental errors are coming from, and he's going to have to get this team to raise their game another couple rungs between now and next season. But I feel that the tools are there right now to make it happen.
The expectations for this team must go up next season and "close" won't be good enough next season. But for now I'm willing to be a little more patient because, when you think about just how close this team is to being elite, it won't take much improvement to reach all of next season's goals. In fact, it will probably take just a little growing up.