"Chemistry is the study of transformation." If you are a fan of AMC's Breaking Bad, and maybe even if you aren't, you know those are the words of the fictional Walter White, high school chemistry teacher turned drug kingpin. In one game with the Aggies, the Hogs have not become expert chemists and suddenly transformed themselves into a top tier SEC team, but this did look like a changed team from the one we last saw in New Jersey. Though it was a 17/36 night with a pick six for Brandon Allen, it was still apparent that he was the prime catalyst for an offensive reaction that put up thirty three points on the A&M defense. Being at home, a prime-time ESPN audience, having last year's Heisman trophy winner on your field, a sold out stadium, a dash of Korliss Marshall from the scout team, all contributed to the Hogs, as I put it, breaking better last Saturday night.
But there is still an ingredient for a winning formula that Bret Bielema has not yet found in this team, and that is a sharp killer instinct where the Hogs insert the knife in a worthy opponent and keep twisting it all the way through a game from start to finish. This has been an age old problem for the Hogs that certainly didn't start with the arrival of Bielema. In Petrino's last game, for example, the 2012 Cotton Bowl, they had Kansas State down early, but didn't put them away until much later in the game. It is almost like the team goes looking for drama! The Drama Hogs, as I call them. Many of them might be majoring in sociology, but I've thought for years that a fair number of them are also getting minors in theater. We don't own the record for the number of overtimes for nothing, you know.
In Saturday night's game, the offense had chances to score after the defense made a rare stop, thus the opportunity to put some pressure on A&M for a change. But, unfortunately, those series were over quickly and never amounted to any points. And A&M could keep their sweat towels away from their foreheads confident that they were going to stay far enough ahead of our Hogs. In Breaking Bad terms, the Hogs never got close enough to become the ones who knock for the Aggies. Who knows if anybody, LSU maybe?, will do that to A&M this year.
The Hogs aren't alone in this, of course. The teams that know how to put on effective pressure and keep that pressure on another team are in the minority. We wouldn't have the great momentum swings that we see in so many college football games if that were not the case. To get the Hogs closer to being in a steady state of consistently winning games, Bielema is going to have to demand over and over again that his players stay focused and hungry, demanding perfection from themselves and their teammates, with no letting up on any phases of the game. It is what Nick Saban has instilled in his players, and if Bielema wants us to be like Bama, he'll need to do more than just put in a power running game.
Though it was a loss and A&M has owned us for the last two games, we saw last Saturday night the morphing of a team that had choked away a game the previous week into a team that had no woe as me about it and went out there and competed hard against what is simply a more talented team at the moment in the Aggies. If our guys can keep morphing, keep transforming themselves, keep breaking better, we'll see an "A One" team emerge sooner rather than later. Next opportunity, Florida, where the Hogs could get their first win against the Gators since joining the SEC. It would be about time!
This week's poll question is about what you think will be the most important ingredient for a victory in the Swamp.