Sweet thoughts, and I don't mean high fructose corn syrup! haha. Tonight it should be made offical: the Hogs to New Orleans and the Sugar Bowl. The Hogs will return to the Superdome and the Sugar Bowl for the first time since the Lou Holtz era with the opportunity to put eleven wins in the win column and notch their first BCS bowl win. It won't be Bear Byrant on the other sideline this time, but more likely Senator Tressell from Ohio State. More about him and the Buckeyes for another day. But today, here are some reflections on the Hogs, the Sugar Bowl, Arkansas fans, and the strange quirks and twists of fate that have the Hogs where they are at today.
* When I made a post earlier in the season about all that would need to happen to get the Hogs into a BCS bowl, hmm, I honestly thought it was a stretch. Something was bound to go wrong, as it typically does for the Hogs. And oh how close it all came to not happening for us in Starkville and then in Tuscaloosa where Auburn had to mount an epic comeback and won by just a point. You can say the Hogs walked a tightrope to New Orleans.
* I reflect back to May the 13th, the day I posted that the Hogs would go 10-2 and make it to a BCS bowl. I was off about one of the losses. I had MSU as a loss and Auburn as a win. I didn't factor in the fact that Cam Newton was at Auburn, not bought and paid for at MSU! haha. I also thought that the SEC making it to five national championship games in a row was something of a stretch, so I had us in the Orange bowl as an at large.
* Email, twitter, youtube, laptops, facebook, sports blogs, the ESPN networks (ESPN itself was just a few months old), the SEC in its present form, College Gameday, Erin Andrews (not yet two years old), message boards. All of these play a role in our sports world today, but were way off the radar or barely on it back on January the 1st 1980 when Lou and boys lost to Bear Bryant and the Tide 24-9. Being seven years old at the time, the 1980 Sugar Bowl is also the first Hog game I have a real memory of.
* Seeing Gus Malzahn on the sidelines yesterday wearing orange and navy blue, I thought about what Arkansas fans really wanted back in those days when Gus was with the Hogs. And that was to see Houston Nutt truly let Guz run the offense. "Turn Gus loose" as Nutt put it. Well, Gus got turned loose finally, but at another school, and now he is headed to the national championship game in Glendale, Houston Nutt sits on a shaky chair in Oxford, and the Hogs, thanks in part to Gus, are finally headed to a BCS bowl.
* I stayed up late last night in an attempt to soak up the last bit of the regular season before it all went into the history books for 2010. And to do that, I watched USC play UCLA in the Rose Bowl. And do you want to know who got the last snap of the game in a victory formation? Yep, it was Mitch Mustain. His college career ended the day the Hogs secured a spot in the BCS. I even caught a glimpse of him up on a ladder leading the Trojan band. Due to sanctions, he'll stay home this bowl season with the rest of the USC team. How his football life did change after one bad pass in Columbia, South Carolina in 2006! In his heart of hearts, does he now regret leaving Arkansas? I wonder. Of course, if he had stayed, there would be no Ryan Mallett breaking all types of records at Arkansas.
* Ben Cleveland stayed and I hope writes a book someday, haha, for he has seen some strange and interesting days in Razorback history. And now he is headed to New Orleans to end his college career in the Sugar Bowl. I hope he catches a touchdown.
* Funny how things work out. Mitch and Gus departing at the end of the 2006 season and then the whole 3 million dollar departure of Nutt to Ole Miss and that horrible Cotton Bowl where we looked like keystone cops out there with Reggie Herring in charge, that all had the bad taste at the time of things falling apart, but they were actually part of something much better being built. There's a life lesson in that, I think.
* The Hogs won the Sugar Bowl back in 1969 with a 16-2 win over Georgia on January 1st. Ohio State has won the bowl only once as well. Their win is much more recent, 1999 over Texas A&M, 24-14.
* My friend and I discussed over the phone if Mallett would leave after the bowl game. We reluctantly talked ourselves into thinking that this would indeed be his last game as a Razorback. But I think it is also a fitting last game for his legend. No, he isn't going to win the Heisman, but he has led the Hogs to their first BCS bowl and could very well leave the team with a Sugar Bowl trophy. I would rather he stay around and leave us with an SEC trophy, but a Sugar Bowl trophy isn't anything to sneeze at either.
* Might it be a tad bit easier for Hog fans to forgive Dyer, Ziemba (Up! Up! Ziemba! haha), and Burns for leaving the Natural State for Auburn now that they helped get the Hogs into the BCS? Maybe.
* After seeing the SEC Championship game, I have to say, "What was I so worried about?" Haha. I thought it would be closer, but post-season on CBS didn't produce the type of game, a close one, that is normally seen on that network at that time in the regular season. Consider these numbers, the SEC West has a combined 54-19 win / loss record for the year. The SEC East, a pitiful 36-37 record. Three of the East's bowl teams got in with 6-6 records. Whereas the West has three teams with double digit win totals for the season. The sun rose and set in the SEC West this season.
* BIG PICTURE THOUGHTS: Well, most of this post has been big picture in nature. But I will end by saying that I am very much looking forward to writing my next post-game post about the Hogs in the Sugar Bowl. I just hope that a month off isn't a month of getting rusty, for I feel like the Hogs that won two Saturdays ago is a team that can compete with the Ohio States of the world. I know New Orleans has its temptations, so I hope the Hogs manage to stay down there without getting anybody suspended for breaking team rules. That worked once in the Orange Bowl, but I don't think suspending your best players has a very high percentage rate of working in your favor. To all of you who are going to make the trip to New Orleans, travel safely, call the Hogs like never before, and show some Southern hospitality to those Ohio Yankees before and after the Hogs whoop their butts and the SEC chant fills the Superdome.