I realize that I am just getting this prediction posted with only about an hour of May 13th left in my time zone. I've spent all day trying to gauge the great Over Soul, the Spiritus Mundi, of the 2011 college football season to see where the Hogs will finish at the end. On May 13th, 2009 I predicted the Hogs would go 8-5 and win the Liberty Bowl. I was so on target that I decided to predict once again on May 13th, 2010, and I said 10-2 with a trip to a BCS bowl. Well, not too bad. I did get the bowl game wrong; I said Orange, and things were murky about one of the losses; I predicted MSU instead of Auburn. But the general tenor of the season I got correct. So what am I predicting on May the 13th 2011?
This is Friday the 13th, so there is no telling how that really factors into the prediction equation. I can't get Ms. Cleo on the phone, or maybe I would have a better idea of what the date will do to my prediction. And Raz, well, he doesn't carry his cell with him when hiking in the Urals. So we forge ahead. But if I am all wrong, I am blaming it on it being Friday the 13th, of course. Take the jump and see what I think will happen.
Here is what I think will happen. The Hogs bring the best defense they've had under Petrino, a ball thief in Tremain Thomas in the secondary, plenty of depth at the skill positions, about as sure of a thing you can get in Hocker at the place kicking spot, a great kickoff returner in Dennis Johnson, a good punter in Breeding, and two Bobby Petrino trained quarterbacks that have worked under him for a couple of years. Two things I know they don't bring back are experience on parts of the offensive line and the ability to take care of opposing kick-off returners. In what will be one of the greatest seasons ever, the last two items will spell trouble for the Hogs during the season and will end up costing them two games.
The Hogs rip through the first easy three games of the schedule. They might have a slow first half, but the resulting scores will all say easy wins. Though they'll start the season ranked, where they'll get serious national attention is when they beat Alabama in Tuscaloosa. Tyler Wilson will prove once again that he can play within the state of Alabama. But just as the Hogs gain national attention, they lose their next game vs. a much improved Texas A&M team. It has gotten harder to beat them each year, and this is the year the Aggies get us by getting to Tyler Wilson all day long, even without Von Miller lining up as an Aggie. The Old Wrecking Crew raises its ugly head.
But the Hogs don't hang their heads for they go on an SEC winning streak that puts them in the driver's seat of the SEC West. National Championship talk begins in earnest. Hey, a one loss SEC team? Yeah, the national pundits will buy it, even if it is Arkansas. The last game of the regular season is in Baton Rouge, and it is there that the Tigers get their revenge from being knocked out of the Sugar Bowl and beat the Hogs with kickoff returns that shorten the field for the Tigers' offense and gives them one easy touchdown that is enough to beat the Hogs. Call it the curse of Trindon Holliday. It also doesn't help the Hogs in Baton Rouge that the receivers get a case of the drops again like they did versus Ohio State. Sitting at 10-2 again, the Hogs still have one fewer conference losses than LSU (bested by Florida), so the Hogs head to Atlanta, but with one extra game to win this year before they can start singing "Pour Sugar On Me."
So which team will the Hogs face in Atlanta? Yeah, you guessed it. Florida. The Gators. They've stolen our lunch money in two out of the three SEC championship games we've played in. But thanks to the running of Knile Davis and Dennis Johnson, the Hogs are able to grind out a fourth quarter one touchdown lead (think the LSU game in 2010) to claim their first SEC championship. Hogologists note that every punt in the game is handled cleanly by the punt returners. The Reggie Fish demon is exorcised from the Georgia Dome, and the Hogs go on to the Super Dome where the experience from the year before and surer hands give them the winner's trophy for the Sugar Bowl to take home. The Hogs go into the off-season 12-2 and with a top five finish.
However, not all is sweet, for the Hogs become the first SEC Champion not to play for and win the national title after five years of the champion doing both. Just as the Old Guard SEC looked down on the Hogs for losing to OSU in the Sugar Bowl, they'll look down on their 2011 SEC Champion for not winning a national title. But as Hog fans exit the French Quarter in 2012 in a happier mood, thoughts of winning the national title in 2012 are no doubt in their heads. Hog fans don't believe Texas A&M, LSU, or a Mayan Calendar can stop the Hogs in 2012. But if you corner them, they might confess that the NFL draft could.
So there you have it sports fans. The Hogs go 12-2 and win the SEC, but come a bit short in playing for the national championship as OU and Oregon get that honor. Hog fans alive in 2012 spend the rest of their natural lives and a good portion of the hereafter saying the 2012 Hogs could have beaten either the Sooners or the Ducks by three touchdowns that year.