And so this is the end of the 2013 college football season for our beloved Hogs. Mercifully so? I think so. We expected a bad season, but I don't know if many of us saw 3-9 and not winning a conference game bad. I didn't see that coming. I thought 6-6 was doable. But that is the thing about college football; you often see what you didn't see coming. And, personally, I wouldn't have it any other way. If you want predictable for the most part, go watch the NFL. This last weekend showed how great the college game can be with one unexpected turn after another, drama on every channel, none more so than on Saturday night in Auburn, Alabama. The premise of this post is to send out some messages to friend and foe alike. We'll start with a friend, college football itself.
COLLEGE FOOTBALL: Thank you, thank you, thank you for finally this season providing a weekend of games that was not a collection of blowouts, but one close contest after another. Arkansas / LSU, Georgia / Georgia Tech, Missouri / A&M, Alabama / Auburn, Michigan / Ohio State, Oregon / Oregon State, Vandy / Wake, Duke / North Carolina, Baylor / TCU. All great contests. What had been missing for much of the season showed up here at the end for rivalry week. Florida / Florida State was the only notable exception that I saw over the weekend. Again, thank you college football!
NICK SABAN: Napoleon had his Waterloo. General Lee had Gettysburg. Nick Saban, you now have the latest installment of the Iron Bowl (your record, a modest 4-3) to what-if yourself about. Yeah, you saw him make them in practice. But this wasn't practice. The Auburn field is where the football gods have a 24-7 smile beaming down on it. You had a better chance of turning that smile around in overtime than a risky long distance kick that is now part of Auburn lore for eternity.
HOG DEFENSE: I want to say that you did well for much of the game, and you did. But in football, as in much of life, they remember you by how you finished the game. And you finished it by not finding that illusive killer instinct and making LSU pay for having a freshman on the field at quarterback. In a game of feel good story vs. backyard childhood fantasy, you let fantasy win the day by allowing LSU to go 99 yards for the winning score. Making quarterbacks look like Heisman contenders is all too typical of Razorback defenses, and I am sick and tired of seeing it. The Golden Boot is for closers. And you didn't close. Tough words, but there they are.
HOG COACHES: Are you thinking you should have gone for it on at least one of those fourth quarter offensive possessions? I had an uneasy feeling about putting the game on the back of the defense. As soon as I was done jumping up and down that special teams had put the ball on the one yard line, I thought to myself, the defense could still give this up. I think most Hog fans were thinking the same. And what you know? They did, in epic bad, Razorback fashion. The strength of your team this year (in many years) has never been the defensive secondary, never. You have better players on the offensive line and in the offensive backfield. Easier to say now, I know, but I wish you had put the game on the backs of your strength, not your weakness.
BRANDON ALLEN: The egging of your vehicle was classless. And I hope, though I fear you will, you don't encounter in the off-season anymore behavior like that. But I am going to be honest with you, maybe your brother and other members of your family thought you could duplicate the drive that LSU's freshmen backup had coordinated, but I don't think many Hog fans did, myself included. I knew the game was lost when LSU scored. All season you've thrown the ball away too soon. And here was THE time to throw the ball away, but you kept it and turned it over. I wish you the best as a person and as a student. But right now I don't think you have what it takes to lead an SEC team to a successful season. After spring and fall camps, you might still be the best we have. And I will, of course, wish you well and pull for you. But I won't have any confidence in you until you start showing me that you can consistently make other teams pay with your arm and your head.
BRET BIELEMA: I listened to your post-game interview and was impressed with the emotion that you showed (could hear it in your voice) when you spoke about your seniors and how you so wanted to see them lift up that trophy. You sound like a coach that really does care for each member of his team. I like that about you. But I also expect you to do everything in your power during this off-season to get these young men prepared for next season. You might not have watched your team's film from last year, but I know you saw this year's performances, and you just simply have to find a way to get more out of your team than you got this year. You know you aren't going to get a roster full of four and five star recruits. So you and your coaches need to find the teaching tactics and strategies that will help them learn how to compete and win in the SEC. Arkansas fans won't stand for paying a million dollars per win, per year, all that long.
ARKANSAS FANS: Might we have been due for this? No winless conference season in the SEC or since 1942. Really, really bad years are part of the game. In April of 2012, our football program essentially had a stroke. And the 2012 season was not good therapy for it. If there ever was a year to have an epic bad year, this was it. My suggestion is that we all just take a deep breath and remind ourselves that this is not the end of Razorback football. We'll be better. When? Of course, not soon enough! But, let us give Bielema and his staff the time to see how their players and philosophy pans out. Personally, I saw enough good on Friday to think brighter thoughts of next season than I have in a long time.
LSU FANS: I think your administration made a mistake for pushing for Texas A&M to end the season. These last twenty some years have been real, as they say. I wish we could continue on, but I will root against your team just as hard earlier in November. Count on it. Your misery in Fayetteville would be a great delight! And I have to think you are due to be on the low end of an Arkansas / LSU score.
HOUSTON NUTT & REGGIE HERRING: What do you think about "High School" these days?
POTENTIAL RECRUITS: Keep this is mind. The world of college football produced an SEC East and an SEC West Champion this year, both of which were at the bottom last year. So don't just assume that the Hogs are doomed to be cellar dwellers for another four years. Come and get some early playing time and be part of the story of how the Razorbacks came back from its worst season in decades. How high will these pigs fly again? That will be up to you.
COMMITTED RECRUITS: Thank you for sticking with the Hogs through some dark days. I look forward, regardless of your star rating, to seeing what you can do for the team. I hope for the right reasons that more than a few of you will rest in Razorback memory and lore for years and years to come.
BCS: Please produce in your final year some real chaos! OSU get beat by Michigan State. Duke beat Florida State! haha. In its last year, I want to see you go out with angry shouts!
EMILY DICKINSON: I just want to say thank you for your poem, "Success is counted sweetest / By those who ne'er succeed." I've been thinking about it a lot this fall. And it tells me that we are learning just how sweet success is as we go through this losing streak.
HOCKER, SMALL, SWANSON, SMITH: You are the players I'll miss most from this senior class that has really known the highs and the lows of college football. I wish you the best in your NFL pursuits and life itself. And I certainly hope to see your name on senior walk in the future.
BLOG READERS: Thanks for your comments and votes throughout the season. I suggest you go to youtube and search for some of your favorite games. So many good Hog memories are on there. It is a good way to sooth the hurt as we count down to 0-0, 2014 season.
Time for a poll, the last of the season, and it will deal with the last SEC game of the season. Personally, I am not a fan of any Tiger team at the moment, hah. Atlanta next Saturday is one of those meteor games where I would just assume a meteor hit the stadium. But maybe you have a Tiger preference?