Standing in the cold, weather-related misery of the Misery game on a dreary Friday-after-Thanksgiving, it dawned on me what a weird season this has been. More so than usual, if that's even possible.
A roller coaster ride for sure (and as Hog fans, do we expect anything else by now?), it's been a season that simultaneously disappointed and teased of glory. Somehow, Hogdom makes that possible.
Against a beleaguered band of Tigers that for five minutes had visions of a "here we go again finish" dancing in my head, the Hogs settled in last week and engaged in as thorough a berting as you're likely to see in an SEC matchup. It was a nice finish, especially after the missed putt of Mississippi State.
We head into bowl prep season with momentum in tact but with a few questions as well:
- Should we get paired in the bowl against a spread team, especially one with a competent QB, can the D find any success?
- Can the offense continue its suffocating ways against what likely will be a mediocre Tech/WVU/K-State defense?
- Can BA keep up the momentum that's solidified him as one of the best in the country over the past 6 weeks?
- Will Dan Enos still be on staff by the time we head to Memphis/Nashville/Jacksonville/Charlotte? [Editor's note: it appears Memphis has hired someone else. Some threw around Enos' name in connection with the Tigers' job, but nothing came out of it.]
- Is 2015 simply a reset, or did November prove that we made legit, significant progress in the evolution of the program under Bielema?
- And of course, where will we bowl?
As for the bowl destination, my money's on Memphis. But under the new playoff system in which the leagues have final say where its non-playoff participants will travel, you just never know. Memphis makes the most sense for both Hogdom and the Liberty Bowl, and by extension the city of Memphis itself. Aside from the Outback in Tampa, which some observers still seem to think is a possibility, all our options are at about the same level prestige-wise.
As to the question of 2015 being a reset or representing significant progress, sound arguments exist on both sides. Right now, I'd say we could play with anyone, even with a thin and vulnerable D. Therefore, progress. Then again, had I known in August that 7-5 awaited in December, well, there would've been a measure of disappointment. I'd pegged 8-4 as the over/under. 7-5, late momentum aside, is under.
Legitimate concerns await the 2016 Hogs, including the possible replacement of the entire offensive backfield and the development of depth, especially at LB, on the defensive back 7. But another year with Enos (surely he's not leaving after a year, right?), the return of Hatcher and the further development of what's become a very good receiving corps plus the maturation of some young guns on D...all promise good things.
All of which is to say, I'm just not sure what to expect in 2016. But I know this: We finished 2015 — the regular season anyway — trending very much up.