Think back to January of 2012. Can you see the Hogs at Jerry World? Can you see them on the field again of where they came back previously that season to beat Texas A&M? Can you see them squaring off against another Big 12 team, Kansas State? I can visualize Joe Adams' awesome punt return. I can see the confetti and the players holding the trophy and feeling really, really good about the upcoming season. Onwards and upwards, right? But could any of us then ever imagined what the rest of 2012 would actually bring the Hogs?
If you had stepped out of your Delorean and had come up to me following the Cotton Bowl, wearing a lab coat, goggles, and wild hair, and had told me the following: 1.) Bobby Petrino would wreck his motorcycle on April Fools Day, 2.) The wreck would lead to his firing due to him hiring his former mistress in a state job, 3.) John L. Smith would leave Weber State to take over the team for a year and would at one point say he was in Alabama, 4.) The Hogs would stay ranked in the Top Ten to begin the season for they could do it without Bobby, so we thought, 5.) The Hogs would go falling fast out of the Top Twenty-Five after a loss to ULM, 6.) The Hogs would have player after player sidelined due to injuries, 7) And finally the Hogs with Tyler Wilson, Cobi Hamilton, Dennis Johnson, and Knile Davis would end the season just 4-8 - I would have thought you crazy! No way the football gods would have that much outlandish misfortune in store for the Hogs. We weren't Penn State for Christ's Sake! Which by the way, went 8-4.
And to top it all off, the Hogs would hire Bret Bielema from Left Field, Wisconsin as their next head coach. Who? Yeah, and he would come to Fayetteville with a beautiful young blond for a wife, which in a way, brought everything back full circle, haha. Strange times, strange times indeed!
I have not been one of Jeff Long's biggest fans, I admit, but I do salute him in his hiring of Bielema for bringing hope back to us fans. That was what we needed, a shot of hope for better times ahead. I wish to salute Jeff Long in the future for bringing a coach who can certainly hack it in the tough SEC West. But that remains to be seen. For now, it is enough to say that Long delivered what the fanbase needed right now in Bret Bielema. And after the impressive press conference and with no signs of Dana Altmanlike behavior, it does feel like the fanbase is squarely united behind Bielema, our new coach. The man who raised hogs as a boy is now the Head Hog in Fayetteville.
What I am about to comment on next could be called polishing a turd. Yeah, the 2012 season, if you want to sum it up in one word, turd. It stunk. The Hogs stunk! But if you look at the teams that beat us, those eight losses, the Petrinoless Hogs did have the misfortune of facing teams that were having great years. Let's look at the losses.
ULM - Well, yeah, this was a bad one. I am confident that Tyler Wilson in the second half or even Brandon Mitchell, and the Hogs still get a win. But 2012 would be the first season that ULM would field a winning team in Division One football. And they are now Independence Bowl bound for their very first bowl trip in school history.
ALABAMA - No Tyler Wilson. And no stopping the Tide. Only Texas A&M with their Heisman trophy winner has stopped the Tide this year. Though it is a shame that we didn't score a single point in the game, there is no shame to losing to Alabama this year.
RUTGERS - They would end the season in the Top 25 and are headed to a bowl game where they could get their 10th win of the season.
SOUTH CAROLINA - They look to add win number eleven in their bowl game. This was one of their best seasons in school history.
MISS STATE - 8-4 is actually one of MSU's best seasons of late as well.
OLE MISS - At 6-6, they still made a big step-up from the pit that was the last year of Nutt's coaching in Oxford. It is never okay to lose to Ole Miss. But I got to think after the last two years, this was an Ole Miss team that was due to have some good fortune. And the Hogs helped them in that regard in Little Rock by giving them both time and only the need of a field goal to win the game.
TEXAS A&M - It was the year of a bounce back in College Station as well. And not only did the 10-2 Aggies bounce back with an improved record, they also produced a Heisman trophy winner and will likely be able to claim a victory over the eventual national champions for 2012.
LSU - Yeah, the Hogs lost. But not so much on the field. The west sideline didn't help the Hogs in that game. We saw a team fight hard against a likely eleven win LSU team.
In retrospect, the losses don't look as bad (polishing!) when you consider the type of seasons these teams went on to have. The Hogs also did not lose to anybody who ended the regular season with a losing record. In Auburn and Kentucky, they beat teams with losing records. In Jacksonville State, with Tyler Wilson, they beat a lower division team as they should have. And in Tulsa, they beat on Homecoming Day the eventual Conference USA champion, as they should have. Not really good enough to beat teams on their level that had good seasons, but not so bad as to lose to teams with very poor seasons. That was 2012, a year of drama on and off the field that I hope we don't see the likes of again in a very long time, if ever. But just to be on the safe side, how about we ask Coach Bielema to not go anywhere near a motorcycle each April 1st from here on out. Better yet, how about he just stay at home in bed that day?