33, 10, 7, 0. No, that is not my old field house locker combination from when I had a brief stint on the junior high football team, which I think at this point could even score on the Hogs. It is our offensive output in the last four games. Notice a trend? Yeah. Unless the NCAA has started allowing negative numbers, the Hogs' offense reached its nadir on Saturday night in Tuscaloosa. The question is how long will the offense stay there? The defense, well, with LSU, Auburn, and Ole Miss still on the schedule, they could still give up more than fifty-two points in a game. The bigger question and one that looms in every Hog heart is how long will the program stay down? How long will the Hogs continue to be bacon flavored cupcakes?
That we don't really know the answers to those questions but fear the answer might be "a long time," that is what bothers me as a fan more than the losses themselves. We knew we were going to lose games this season. We knew we might even lose badly to some better teams, as we have. But we thought we would see a trend upwards in level of play, more evidence of rebuilding, with the new coaching staff in place, one that has an incentive to do well by our Hogs.
Is there any sign thus far that 2012 was just an aberration? Fifty-two to zip two years in a row to Alabama and fifty-two scored on us back to back in the last two games, and it is more than apparent that the problem runs deeper than a set of one season coaches. There's a losing combination at work at Arkansas of low talent level, lack of mental toughness and focus, a defeatist mentality or no swagger, and coaches who have not been able to coach up what Petrino and Smith left behind or find plays that the players are capable of executing consistently.
We all know too well the story of our basketball team and the aftermath of firing a successful coach in that sport, that being just over ten years in the basketball wilderness and still searching for a way out of irrelevance.
In a worst case scenario, something similar could happen to the football team. I don't like to contemplate this much less type it out, but we could be at the start of a stretch of years in football like what we had in the 1990s. In that scenario, Bielema would have discovered he bit off more than he could chew in Arkansas and the SEC. Some say this has already been shown to be the truth. But put me still in the wait and see category.
On the brighter side, it could also go the way of Bielema getting his guys in here and putting together Arkansas teams that resemble his better Wisconsin teams and a resulting SEC Championship for Arkansas, which is what he stated his goal to be, to give us something we've never obtained as a program. Then there is also the scenario of seven to eight wins, low tier bowl game, no trips to Atlanta, the occasional upset of an Alabama or LSU, year after year that none of us really want to see either, but is looking pretty darn good right about now.
Eligibility being exhausted, better recruiting, stability on the coaching staff, additional spring and fall camps, the improvement of Brandon Allen or finding an upgrade at quarterback, players staying out of legal and academic trouble, and improved leadership from within the ranks of players, these are all things that need to happen before the Hogs rejoin the SEC. Missouri and A&M joined the conference last year, and it seems like 2012 was also the year we left the conference.
In 2013 on a weekend that saw the Davids of the SEC standup and slay the conference's Goliaths (the exception, of course, being Arkansas), I have never felt as far removed from the conference as I do now. Yeah, the giant killers of this last weekend would have probably lost to Alabama as well. But would they have looked as helpless as we did in the process? I doubt it.
Looking to the immediate future, insert all of your getting beat by BYE WEEK UNIVERSITY here, haha. The Hogs have in my memory not traditionally done well coming off bye weeks. That has to change, or Gus will get his Hog killing revenge in grand fashion. With Auburn's defeat of A&M and top 25 ranking, they have experienced the resurrection that Arkansas hopes is in its near future. Ole Miss with Scott and Wallace will likely leave our defense with their heads spinning. And we have not traditionally played well in Oxford. LSU in Baton Rouge. Enough said.
I really wouldn't blame the coaching staff if they spent every week from here on out planning and practicing for Mississippi State, the Hogs' only legit chance of getting an SEC win and not have a worse record than what we had last year. Sports fans, the cold hard fact of the matter is that 3-9 has never looked more real than it does right now.
POLL QUESTION: Here is a what-if for you. Would Bobby Petrino's first year team from 2008 beat Bret Bielema's first year team of 2013? My inclination is to think a Petrino coached Casey Dick would outperform a weak shoulder Brandon Allen. London Crawford would be a step up from our current crop of receivers. Thinking more about it, I say 2008 would win rather easily. But that could be the hurt and embarrassment of the present moment talking. What do you think?