I realize that there is not a lot of time left to get in a preseason prediction for how things will go for the Hogs this year, the 118th season of the football program at the University of Arkansas. The season is just about here! In only one of those many years did the Hogs end the season with any claim to a national championship, 1964. Could this be the year that it happens again? I've read where some computer simulation has already picked the Hogs winning it all with a game in Miami vs. Kansas State. Hmm, a rematch of the Cotton Bowl with much bigger stakes? Sounds unlikely, the rematch that is. Or will the head coaching change prove to be too costly, as many outside the program predict, and Jessica Dorrell puts a few more states between herself and Arkansas? But what do I think will happen, you are asking, right? Well, I have it broken down to three scenarios of what I think the Hogs can achieve this year. Yeah, I am hedging somewhat here, I admit.
KEVINHOG'S MOST OPTIMISTIC SCENARIO: The Hogs make their fourth trip to Atlanta, and the fourth trip is the charm. They might not make it there undefeated, but they do make it to Atlanta where they get a rematch with South Carolina or the opportunity to play Georgia. This means the Hogs will at the least have to split the Alabama / LSU games. With the Honey Badger off to rehab, I think the chances ticked up a notch that the Hogs will stay undefeated in Fayetteville for another season. But it is still going to be very hard for the Hogs to get over the top of these two SEC mountains and on to Atlanta. And as another writer I've read pointed out, the coaches will earn their pay after the Alabama game, win or lose, when Rutgers comes to town. There's going to be an emotional descend of some sort after the Alabama game, win or lose. The coaches will have to get them back up. In this scenario, they do. With one loss at the most, the Hogs make it to Miami where it is fitting that John L. Smith pulls a Larry Coker and the Hogs win their second national championship over, hmm, I would love it most if it were over Lane Kiffen and USC, though Bob Stoops and OU would do right nicely as well.
KEVINHOG'S MORE DOWN TO EARTH SCENARIO: Much will have to go right for the first scenario to play out. Not quite as much has to go right for this scenario to unfold. As a mid-level prediction, I see the Hogs doing what most feel like they will do, lose to Alabama and LSU again. Both of those teams have been very good on the road. Fayetteville. So what? Alabama still strangles our rushing game. LSU's defense gets to Tyler Wilson in a heart beat just like Alabama did a year ago. But the Hogs are capable of handling the rest of their schedule, including some tricky road games of their own, and the regular season ends 10-2. In this scenario, the Hogs take on John L. Smith's old foe, Michigan, in the Capital One Bowl and finally get that win (no vacating necessary) over a Big Ten school. Essentially, John L. Smith will have managed to repeat the 2011 season. Though there would be some doubt about John L. staying or not, I think this scenario still puts him out to the coaching pasture. The Hogs need a coach who can beat Alabama and LSU if they are going to ever be Alabama or LSU will be the thinking. Smith will have had his shot.
KEVINHOG'S AS BAD AS IT IS LIKELY TO GO SCENARIO: I think this team is too talented, coaching staff included, to do worse than 8-4 for the regular season. This scenario has us losing the Alabama / LSU games and stumbling somewhere on the road, likely places being College Station (Aggies being due a win & the Hogs with no experience at playing there) and Starkville (took overtime the last time we visited). At 8-4, there is no doubt that the Hogs will have a coaching change. But as a matter of pride, I think John L. adds a second bowl win to his poor bowl record, and the Hogs go 9-4 for the season with a win over some ACC team in the Music City Bowl or a run of the mill Big Ten team in the Gator Bowl.But would it shock me if the Hogs played the bowl game in a funk and lost a game they should have won after having such high expectations for this year, no it wouldn't. Plus, the head coach is going to be in his own funk about blowing such an opportunity as the 2012 season represented. If we were to ask our resident pessimist, Zeke, he would no doubt assure us that the Hogs lose the bowl game in this scenario. The Hogs have never won back to back bowl games in calendar years: I say this year's team has the experience to pull that off for the first time.
So there you have it, three scenarios for one season. Which will it be? Well, hell if I should know, haha. The heart says scenario one! The heart is really in love with scenario one, big time! A man crush, yeah, absolutely. And would it not be in Hog fashion to win a national championship after such drama as this off-season produced? But the head is looking right square at scenarios two and three. Ranking them, I would say scenario two is more likely than one and more likely than scenario three as well. But as optimistic as we want to be right now, we have to realize that an SEC season can always take a team down a peg, even a very talented one like this one, with just the grind and always the possibility of injuries to key players. But let's end things here on a positive thought, and that is that we are alive in the world and on the cusp of starting another football season. Bask in the glow of it, no matter the record at the end. There's only so many of these that anybody gets to experience in a lifetime. Eat healthier, quit smoking, do some situps, if only to live one season longer! Looking forward to sharing the season with you. Woo Pig Sooie!