Let me take you back to the preseason, before we even kicked off against Elon. I predicted that Georgia Tech would win 9 regular-season games and go 6-2 in the ACC, finishing second in the Coastal behind Miami. I guessed that we would beat Virginia Tech and BYU.
I was pretty wrong.
But I wasn't the only one. You predicted how many games Georgia Tech would win, and you predicted that they would win 8 games, including Virginia Tech.
You were wrong too.
I came into this year thinking that Vad Lee would prove a worthy replacement for Tevin Washington, showing growing pains at times but overall being a better QB. I thought the offensive line would be solid, if thin at times. I was halfway right about that, at least.
This is probably going to surprise you, so sit down now if necessary, but I've long been an optimist about Georgia Tech football. I was spoiled as a freshman on the Flats with an ACC Championship run and an appearance in the Orange Bowl. That, after being present for both the whoopin' CPJ put on Miami and a subsequent miraculous comeback win in Athens. I learned early that every game was winnable and likely to be won, and that just when I least expected it, the magic would happen and we would pull off a win.
I was such a spoiled little freshman.
The four years since have started to convince me that I was wrong. The Yellow Jackets were 6-7 in 2010 with losses to Kansas and Air Force (and a miraculous win against Wake Forest). They were 8-5 in 2011 with a loss against Virginia and a bowl game loss to Utah snatched from the jaws of victory. Tech went 7-7 in 2012 with a loss against Middle Tennessee State along with basically anyone else worth a damn, though a Bowl game win finally happened. This year the Jackets went 7-6 with losses to all of the common opponents they'd lost to the year before, plus Ole Miss in an ugly one.
Every year is going to be the year. Every year is going to be the one we break out and win 9 games and crack the top 25 and make it to a major Bowl game. Every year is going to be the one where we beat Virginia Tech, uga, and Miami. (Would you believe me if I told you that Paul Johnson has beaten each of those teams once, and has a combined 1-14 record against them since 2009?)
Maybe the worst part is how we've come across so many of the losses -- not the number of losses so much as the nature. How many losses have been soul-crushing last-minute and OT losses? Off the top of my head, I can think of Utah 2011, Virginia Tech 2012, Miami 2012, uga 2013, and Ole Miss 2013 as losses where it was strung out to the very end, and resulted in a loss in some awful form or fashion.
I'm tired of seeing these losses. I'm tired of this pattern of being competitive against good teams, but never good enough. It's horrible thinking about how close we were to winning 9 games this year, before bowl season. Play a decent game against Virginia Tech and manage the game a little better against uga? Yup, there's two more wins, easy.
Long story short, the loss to Ole Miss may have been the straw that broke the camel's back in terms of my optimism. I'm struggling to believe that this will get better. We're losing 11 senior starters after this year, many of whom were pretty impactful (Sims, Godhigh, Jackson, Finch, Beno, Attaochu, Dieke, Cummings, Watts, Young, Thomas). They were starters because they were the best on the team at doing their jobs. Now we have to replace half of a team that could only muster 7 wins, and we get to go play a similar set of teams next year (the major difference being the trade of Tulane for BYU).
As an Atlanta sports fan (Braves and Falcons specifically), I'm used to pessimism. It's a safety net against heartbreak, most useful when that heartbreak is inevitable -- which it is as an Atlanta sports fan (see: literally every season those two have played except for the 1995 Braves). For years though, Georgia Tech football has been different to me. It's been something that I believe in, stupid as it may be and stupid as I know it is. Somehow though, after 2013, I'm not feeling that optimism. I don't have this unrelenting belief that this program can achieve great heights in the coming years, for whatever reason. It's disappointing to feel this way, but it's not something I can fight off.
Maybe I'm being overly cynical. The past couple of recruiting classes have been pretty solid, and this one looks even better. The future could be really bright for all I know. But until the time in which I'm forced to believe again (it'll look something like Miami 2008, uga 2008, Clemson I 2009, Virginia Tech 2009, Clemson II 2009, or Clemson 2011), I just don't see it happening.
Where you at, Tech fans? Am I just being a curmudgeon? Still optimistic? Even farther into the abyss than you were before? How far is this program from being nationally relevant?