Archive for the ‘Football’ Category

College football: Week 10

Thursday, October 30th, 2014

Thank goodness for nonconference games.

Arkansas evened its record at 4-4 last Saturday with a 45-17 breather in Fayetteville against the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

All four of Arkansas’ victories have come in nonconference contests. Bret Bielema, who has never won a conference game as a Southeastern Conference head coach, is now 7-1 against nonconference opponents.

Unfortunately for the Razorbacks, it’s back to the SEC West this week.

In fact, it’s the No. 1 team in the country. And it’s on the road.

Mississippi State: No. 1.

That still has a strange ring to it, doesn’t it?

Will the Bulldog magic come to an end in Starkville on Saturday night?

Football analysts across the country kept saying Arkansas would have a breakthrough game — at least they were saying that prior to the debacle against Georgia at War Memorial Stadium two weeks ago. This would be a good time for that breakthrough SEC game.

We were 6-1 on the picks last week, making the record 61-6 for the season.

Let’s get to the predictions for Week 10 of the college football season:

Mississippi State 30, Arkansas 21 — Will it be the Arkansas team that almost knocked off Alabama in Fayetteville or the team that laid an egg against Georgia in Little Rock? Arkansas will need to have success on the ground and, in the process, limit the number of possessions for Dak Prescott & Co. Against UAB, Jonathan Williams rushed for 153 yards and one touchdown with 109 of those yards coming in the first half. Alex Collins finished with 82 yards rushing. Mississippi State had to work hard in Lexington, meanwhile, in its 45-31 victory over Kentucky. That game was in doubt until the Bulldogs’ Christian Holmes returned a short kickoff 61 yards for a touchdown with 2:22 remaining. Prescott ran for two touchdowns and passed for another. He had 216 yards passing and 88 yards rushing. It was Mississippi State’s 10th consecutive victory. Look for Arkansas to hang around for at least three quarters this Saturday night.

Arkansas State 40, Idaho 29 — The Red Wolves have had 11 days to prepare for this game. It was not a good performance on Tuesday of last week as ASU fell at Louisiana-Lafayette by a score of 55-40 in one of those awful Tuesday night affairs. At least the 4-3 Red Wolves get to play on a Saturday this time around. And even though the game is on the road, at least they get to take on a weaker opponent in Idaho, which comes in with a 1-6 record. The Vandals’ lone victory came on Oct. 18 against New Mexico State, 29-17. The losses have been to Louisiana-Monroe, Western Michigan, Ohio, South Alabama, Texas State and Georgia Southern.

UCA 31, Abilene Christian 25 — The Bears are 5-4 overall and 4-1 in the Southland Conference following an impressive 58-35 victory over Northwestern State of Louisiana at Conway last Saturday night. UCA had 306 rushing yards with Willie Matthews getting 114 of those. Ryan Howard was 13 of 16 passing for 150 yards and one touchdown. The ground game was so dominant that the Bears only threw three passes in the second half. There are five teams bunched at the top of the Southland Conference standings with one conference loss each. UCA and Southeastern Louisiana are 4-1. Stephen F. Austin, McNeese State and Sam Houston State are 3-1. Abilene Christian, 4-5, is at home Saturday, but the Bears should have enough firepower to overcome the Texas team. The four Abilene Christian victories have come against Troy, Incarnate Word, Houston Baptist and Ave Maria. The losses have been to Georgia State, Northern Arizona, Lamar, McNeese State and Sam Houston State.

UAPB 20, Mississippi Valley State 19 — UAPB got its first SWAC victory of the season last Saturday, blocking a 37-yard field goal attempt in the final seconds of a 38-37 win over Texas Southern in Houston. The Golden Lions had gone ahead with 2:15 left in the game on a 69-yard pass from Ben Anderson to Willie Young. UAPB is now 2-5 overall and 1-4 in conference play. SWAC games are hard to predict because the teams are so inconsistent. It’s especially hard to make the call between a 2-5 UAPB squad and a 2-6 Mississippi Valley State team. The only Mississippi Valley State wins have been over University of Faith and Jackson State. The losses have been to Illinois State, Alabama State, Alcorn State, Alabama A&M, Texas Southern and Prairie View A&M. We’ll give a slight edge to the Golden Lions since the game is in Pine Bluff.

Ouachita 28, Southern Arkansas 24 — Ouachita is 7-0 for the first time since 1914. That’s right. It has been a century. And the Tigers suddenly find themselves alone atop the Great American Conference standings after Harding’s victory over Henderson last Saturday. Ouachita, the only undefeated college football team remaining in Arkansas and the only college program in the state with seven consecutive winning seasons, relied on its defense a week ago to overcome Arkansas Tech, 14-9. Senior quarterback Kiehl Frazier was about the only bright spot on offense for the Tigers as he passed for 173 yards and ran for another 41 yards, accounting for 215 of his team’s 300 yards of offense. Southern Arkansas has defeated Ouachita each of the past two seasons and seems to have found a quarterback in Si Blackshire. The Muleriders are 4-3 but have had two weeks to prepare for the game and have a chance to pull the upset at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia.

Henderson 49, UAM 22 — Coming into their homecoming game last week at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia, the Reddies had moved up to No. 4 in NCAA Division II and had Division II’s longest regular-season winning streak at 30 games. That all ended with a 28-24 loss to Harding. Trailing 24-21, Harding recovered a fumbled pass reception with 4:36 remaining and then took 10 plays to score. The winning touchdown came with 17 seconds left on a three-yard reverse by NFL prospect Donatella Luckett. The Reddies are back home in Arkadelphia on Saturday afternoon. Look for them to bounce back in a big way against a 2-5 UAM team that had to struggle for a 44-37 victory last week against winless Southern Nazarene. Hunter Leppert passed for 323 yards in that game for the Boll Weevils.

Harding 37, Southeastern Oklahoma 17 — The Bisons went from the lowest of lows (an overtime loss to Ouachita at home in Searcy) to the highest of highs (the victory over Henderson on the road) in a week’s time. Harding led Henderson in time of possession, 43:58 to 16:02. Henderson was held to 115 yards of total offense in the second half, and the Bisons finished with a 379-356 advantage in total yards. Expect this 6-1 Harding team to finish the regular season 9-1, playing in either the Division II playoffs or the Live United Bowl at Texarkana.

Arkansas Tech 16, East Central Oklahoma 14 — Arkansas Tech is just 3-5 overall, but the Wonder Boys have a defense that gets better each week. If Tech could ever find an offense, it would be dangerous. East Central Oklahoma, which has a 5-2 record, will enter Saturday afternoon’s game at Russellville as the favorite. Expect Tech, which draws well in Russellville, to squeeze out just enough points to pull off the upset at home.

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Rex’s Rankings: After eight weeks

Tuesday, October 28th, 2014

There are two weeks left in the regular season, and things are getting interesting in high school football in Arkansas.

No changes occurred in our overall Top 10 as all of the teams won last week. In fact, the top nine teams all won by double-digit margins.

There are, however, some things to watch for as the playoffs near:

– In Class 7A, watch for Bentonville. The Tigers lost their first four games and have since won four consecutive contests. They know all about winning late in the season.

– By the same token, watch for Greenwood in Class 6A. Uncharacteristically, the Bulldogs have lost three games this year. But, like Bentonville, they know all about winning late.

– In Class 4A, watch for traditional powers that wear orange. In other words, Warren and Nashville.

– In Class 3A, keep an eye on this week’s Charleston-Booneville game. One of these two teams likely will go on to win the state championship.

– In Class 2A, watch what we’re now calling the University of Junction City just to see if anyone comes within 30 points of the Dragons. We doubt it. The most recent victim was Strong by a score of 60-6.

Here are the rankings with two weeks remaining in the regular season:

Overall

1. Conway

2. Fayetteville

3. North Little Rock

4. Pulaski Academy

5. Fort Smith Northside

6. Bryant

7. Benton

8. Pine Bluff

9. Jonesboro

10. Sylvan Hills

Class 7A

1. Conway

2. Fayetteville

3. North Little Rock

4. Fort Smith Northside

5. Bryant

Class 6A

1. Benton

2. Pine Bluff

3. Jonesboro

4. Greenwood

5. El Dorado

Class 5A

1. Pulaski Academy

2. Sylvan Hills

3. Batesville

4. Maumelle

5. Wynne

Class 4A

1. Warren.

2. Dardanelle

3. Nashville

4. Pocahontas

5. Pine Bluff Dollarway

Class 3A

1. Charleston

2. Booneville

3. Prescott

4. Smackover

5. Little Rock Episcopal

Class 2A

1. Junction City

2. Hazen

3. Rison

4. Hector

5. Bearden

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College football: Week 9

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Some of you have complained about next year’s University of Arkansas football schedule since it has Toledo coming to the capital city for the only Little Rock game.

Frankly, I may be ready to say “bring on Toledo” just so Arkansas can win a game again at War Memorial Stadium.

The Hogs are 1-4 in Little Rock in the PMA (Post Motorcycle Accident) era.

The most recent Southeastern Conference win at Little Rock was 44-17 over Mississippi State in 2011. The overall record is still sterling: 149-56-2 in games played at War Memorial Stadium and 167-69-4 in all games played at Little Rock through the decades.

Arkansas had the dubious distinction Saturday of being the first SEC West team to lose to a squad from outside the division. The West had been 26-0 going into the game against Georgia. So we’re at 16 consecutive conference losses for Arkansas. It has been more than two years now since the most recent SEC victory. It was Oct. 13, 2012, to be exact, and the opponent that rainy night in Fayetteville was Kentucky.

I guess that means it’s time to go to the record books. The school record for conference losses is 20 from 1940-43. That may be a record that’s broken. Arkansas will tie it by the end of this season if it can’t upset one of these teams — Mississippi State, Ole Miss, LSU or Missouri.

Brandon Allen did set career bests for completions, attempts and yards. He was 28 of 45 passing for 292 yards and three touchdowns. But Georgia running back Nick Chubb countered with 202 yards rushing on 30 carries, averaging 6.7 yards per carry. The Bulldogs haven’t missed Todd Gurley yet.

We now have an SEC West with four of the top five teams in college football. Obviously, that is unprecedented.

And two of the top three teams are from Mississippi.

What a season.

It seemed we were one of the few people to actually pick Georgia last week rather than following the herd and going with the “boutique pick” of Arkansas.

We were 5-1 for the week, making the record 55-5 for the season.

Here are the picks for Week 9:

Arkansas 42, UAB 22 — It’s a needed break from SEC play for the Razorbacks in front of what likely will be a lot of empty seats in Fayetteville on Saturday morning. The Blazers are decent at 4-3. Their wins have come by scores of 48-10 over Troy, 41-14 over Alabama A&M, 42-39 over Western Kentucky and 56-21 over North Texas. The losses have been by scores of 47-34 to Mississippi State (not bad at all), 34-20 to Florida International and 34-22 to Middle Tennessee.

Louisiana-Lafayette 35, Arkansas State 33 — We’re having to get the picks posted early this week because the Red Wolves have one of those strange Tuesday night games. I detest the thought of college football on a Tuesday, but you do what you have to do when you’re not in one of the Power Five conferences. Louisiana-Lafayette embarrassed ASU last year on a Tuesday night in Jonesboro by a score of 23-7. Louisiana-Lafayette is home this time for a game that will be seen nationally on ESPN 2. The Ragin’ Cajuns are 3-3 overall and 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference. They have won four of the past six games in this series. This season’s wins have been by scores of 45-6 over Southern University, 34-31 over Georgia State and 34-10 over Texas State. The losses have come by scores of 48-20 to Louisiana Tech, 56-15 to Ole Miss and 34-9 to Boise State. ASU is 4-2 overall and also 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference. In their last outing, the Red Wolves had a dominating 52-10 win at Georgia State. This should be a close game. We’ll give a slight edge to the Cajuns since they’re playing at home.

UCA 27, Northwestern State 24 — It was a disappointing trip to Hammond, La., for the Bears as they fell Saturday to Southeastern Louisiana, 41-24. Southeastern outrushed UCA 289-113. The Bears are 4-4 overall and 3-1 in the Southland Conference. They must beat Northwestern State of Louisiana in Conway on Saturday night to stay alive in the conference race. Northwestern is 4-3 overall and 2-1 in conference play. The Demons started the season with losses of 34-27 to Missouri State and 70-6 to Baylor. That was followed by victories of 51-27 over Southern University and 30-27 over Louisiana Tech. After a 30-22 loss to Southeastern Louisiana, the Demons have won two consecutive games, 49-12 over Incarnate Word and 31-27 over Sam Houston State. The two teams appear evenly matched. Again, we’ll give a slight edge to the home team.

Texas Southern 30, UAPB 20 — It’s shaping up to be a year to forget for the Golden Lions. UAPB is 1-5 overall and 0-4 in the SWAC after a 63-39 loss to Grambling on Saturday. Golden Lion quarterback Ben Anderson did have a good day statistically, passing for 467 yards. UAPB outgained Grambling, 570-503, but had three costly turnovers. Texas Southern is 5-2. The season started with victories of 37-35 over Prairie View A&M, 52-14 over Texas College, 30-16 over Central State and 45-23 over Alabama A&M. Losses of 38-3 to Alabama State and 40-25 to Alcorn State have since been sandwiched around a 20-16 victory over Mississippi Valley State. It’s the homecoming game in Houston this Saturday for Texas Southern.

Harding 31, Henderson 29 — It’s hard to pick against a team that has won 30 consecutive regular-season games — especially a team playing its homecoming game — but we’re going to go out on a limb and do it. Henderson has been less than impressive (by lofty Reddie standards) the past two weeks. The Reddies went to 7-0 on Saturday with a 24-3 victory at 3-4 Arkansas Tech. Henderson scored just three points in the second half. Reddie quarterback Kevin Rodgers was 21 of 36 passing for 325 yards, his 23rd game to pass for more than 300 yards. Darius Davis had touchdown receptions of 56, 68 and 58 yards in the first half. Henderson is No. 4 nationally in NCAA Division II. Its opponent, 5-1 Harding, is No. 23. This is a senior-laden Harding team that should be able to bounce back from Saturday night’s heartbreaking overtime loss to Ouachita in Searcy. It should be quite a game Saturday afternoon in Arkadelphia. Harding still has the top rushing attack in Division II and one of the top defenses against the run. The Bisons will try to control the clock with their run-based offense and limit the number of possessions for Rodgers, Davis & Co.

Ouachita 25, Arkansas Tech 13 — The 6-0 Tigers, now ranked 18th in Division II, must quickly come down off the high of Saturday night’s miracle victory in Searcy (a game that saw Ouachita score a touchdown on the final play of regulation and then convert a two-point conversion just to get the contest to overtime) and return to business against a Tech team that has a stingy defense. The Wonder Boy offense has struggled, however, meaning that points might be at a premium in Arkadelphia on Saturday afternoon unless Tiger quarterback Kiehl Frazier gets hot.

UAM 44, Southern Nazarene 18 — It has been a hard-luck season for the 1-5 Boll Weevils. Four of the five losses have been close — by four points to East Central Oklahoma, by three points to Southeastern Oklahoma, by six points to Northwestern Oklahoma and by five points to Arkansas Tech. The only team to blow the Weevils out was Harding, 55-15. UAM will have had two weeks to prepare for this week’s game against an 0-7 Southern Nazarene team that lost 62-7 to Southern Arkansas on Saturday. SAU outgained its opponent 605-88. UAM should be able to take out some frustration in Bethany, Okla.

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Rex’s Rankings: After seven weeks

Monday, October 20th, 2014

Batesville over Wynne.

That was the biggest game Friday as Wynne drops out of the overall Top 10.

Conway, Fayetteville, North Little Rock, Pulaski Academy, Fort Smith Northside, Bryant, Benton, Pine Bluff, Jonesboro and Sylvan Hills all took care of business.

Those are our Top 10, and all of them won by 17 points or more.

Who could have guessed coming into this season that Bentonville would have four losses at this point?

Who could have guessed that Greenwood would have three losses?

Last season, we were referring to them as the University of Bentonville and the University of Greenwood on our statewide radio scoreboard show.

Still, I expect both teams to be factors down the stretch.

Here are the rankings after seven weeks of the high school football season:

Overall

1. Conway

2. Fayetteville

3. North Little Rock

4. Pulaski Academy

5. Fort Smith Northside

6. Bryant

7. Benton

8. Pine Bluff

9. Jonesboro

10. Sylvan Hills

Class 7A

1. Conway

2. Fayetteville

3. North Little Rock

4. Fort Smith Northside

5. Bryant

Class 6A

1. Benton

2. Pine Bluff

3. Jonesboro

4. Lake Hamilton

5. El Dorado

Class 5A

1. Pulaski Academy

2. Sylvan Hills

3. Batesville

4. Maumelle

5. Wynne

Class 4A

1. Pine Bluff Dollarway

2. Warren

3. Dardanelle

4. Arkadelphia

5. Nashville

Class 3A

1. Charleston

2. Booneville

3. Prescott

4. Smackover

5. Little Rock Episcopal

Class 2A

1. Junction City

2. Hazen

3. Rison

4. Hector

5. Bearden

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College football: Week 8

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014

It hurt, didn’t it?

A blocked extra point.

A bad snap on a field goal attempt.

What was about to be a touchdown fumbled into the end zone.

Alabama 14, Arkansas 13.

This is a team that could be 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the Southeastern Conference instead of the team with the longest losing streak in the SEC at 15 games.

The loss to Texas A&M in overtime hurt. The loss to Alabama hurt even more.

But think how far Arkansas has come from the teams that lost 52-0 the previous two seasons to the Crimson Tide.

It would be poetic justice of sorts if the SEC losing streak ended in Little Rock on Saturday at a time when the athletic administration in Fayetteville seems dead set on ending the great Razorback tradition of Little Rock games (though I suspect the final decision again will be made by the UA Board of Trustees, not Jeff Long).

The weather should be perfect Saturday afternoon. I hope War Memorial Stadium is its old rockin’ self.

Meanwhile, anyone who claims to have predicted before the season that the state of Mississippi would be the center of the college football world in the middle of October is a liar.

I don’t know how to say it more plainly. Nobody saw this coming.

Arkansas still gets to take a swing at Mississippi State in Starkville and Ole Miss in Fayetteville.

But first things first: It’s Georgia in Little Rock on Saturday afternoon.

We were 7-0 on the picks last week, making the record 50-4 through the first seven weeks of the season.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 8:

Georgia 28, Arkansas 25 — No Todd Gurley for Georgia? Todd who? Freshman Nick Chubb carried 28 times for 143 yards and one touchdown as Georgia shut out Missouri in Columbia, 34-0. Georgia rolls into the City of Roses with records of 5-1 overall and 3-1 in the SEC. The Bulldogs had the ball for more than 42 minutes against Missouri and finished with 379 yards of offense. Missouri never reached the red zone. Is this the week the Hogs break through? Arkansas did manage 335 yards of offense against Alabama, but only 89 of that came on the ground. Brandon Allen was 21 of 40 passing for 246 yards as Arkansas lost for an eighth consecutive time to Alabama. If Arkansas is going to pull the upset on Saturday, it’s going to have to score in the fourth quarter. The Razorbacks have been outscored 62-0 in the fourth quarter and overtimes of their past five SEC games. And Arkansas has lost 12 consecutive games to ranked teams. The most recent victory over a ranked team came in January 2012 against Kansas State in the Cotton Bowl when that fellow named Petrino was the head Hog.

Southeastern Louisiana 31, UCA 30 — The Bears are 3-0 in the Southland Conference (and 4-3 overall) after a 70-0 thrashing of an awful Houston Baptist team in Conway last Saturday night. It could have been worse. UCA led 56-0 at halftime. It was the sixth-highest margin of victory ever for a UCA team. Three Bear quarterbacks threw touchdown passes. Taylor Reed out of El Dorado was five of five passing in the first half for 106 yards and two touchdowns. UCA ended the game with 287 yards passing and 258 yards rushing. Things will be much more difficult this week as the Bears make the long trip to Hammond, La., to take on a Southeastern Louisiana team that’s also 3-0 in conference play after victories of 63-7 over Incarnate Word, 30-22 over Northwestern State and 61-34 over Lamar. Southeastern is 5-2 overall, having won nonconference games by scores of 44-3 over Jacksonville University and 41-14 over Southern Utah and having lost 35-20 to Tulane and 24-23 to Southeast Missouri. This should be a heck of a game. We’ll give a slight edge to the home team.

Grambling 29, UAPB 19 — The Golden Lions have had two weeks to prepare for this game, but it might not help at Eddie Robinson Stadium on Saturday afternoon against a much-improved Grambling squad. The Tigers lost their first three games by scores of 42-27 to Lamar, 47-0 to Houston and 36-23 to Bethune-Cookman. Then they entered SWAC play and have won four consecutive contests — 40-35 over Jackson State, 26-20 over Prairie View A&M, 38-28 over Alabama A&M and 28-21 over Alcorn State. UAPB’s only victory this season has been against tiny Concordia College out of Alabama. The losses have been to Texas State, Alabama State, Jackson State and Southern University.

Harding 38, Ouachita 27 — The biggest game to this point in the season in the Great American Conference will be played in Searcy on Saturday night. Harding is 5-0 and No. 13 in NCAA Division II. Ouachita is 5-0 and No. 22 in NCAA Division II. That gives the GAC three ranked teams since Henderson (6-0) is No. 6. This is the first meeting between two ranked GAC teams since Ouachita and Harding met in October 2012. Harding won that game, 34-14. Harding beat 1-5 UAM, 55-15, last Saturday in Monticello as the Bisons’ option attack gained 454 yards on the ground. The Bisons lead NCAA Division II in rushing, averaging 410.2 yards per game. Harding has won nine consecutive games, a school record. Ouachita is off to a 5-0 start for a third consecutive year after making the long trip to Northwestern Oklahoma and defeating the 1-5 Rangers, 41-10. Etauj Allen returned two punts for touchdowns in that game. In a victory the previous week against Southwestern Oklahoma, the Ouachita defense scored three touchdowns. The Tigers likely will have to have scores from the defense or special teams to knock off Harding. Ouachita is the only college program in the state with six consecutive winning seasons, but the Tigers have not defeated the Bisons since Ouachita’s GAC championship season of 2011.

Henderson 49, Arkansas Tech 24 — The Reddies played their worst game of the season and still managed to beat 2-4 Southwestern Oklahoma on the road, 28-14. That game was tied 14-14 at the half. Don’t expect Henderson to play poorly two weeks in a row. Arkansas Tech is 3-3 overall following a 21-14 loss to Southern Arkansas in Magnolia. Henderson quarterback Kevin Rodgers should have a field day against a Wonder Boy defense that gave up 334 yards through the air against the Muleriders.

Southern Arkansas 40, Southern Nazarene 20 — This is a Mulerider team that’s 3-3 and getting better every week behind quarterback Si Blackshire, who had three touchdown passes in the win over Arkansas. SAU is 3-0 at home and 0-3 on the road. The Muleriders are home Saturday against an 0-6 Southern Nazarene team. Enough said.

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Rex’s Rankings: After six weeks

Monday, October 13th, 2014

The weather appeared to be the big winner across Arkansas on Friday night.

Games delayed.

Games stopped early.

Games finished on Saturday.

What a weekend.

Conway posted an important 42-37 win over a traditional power, Greenwood, to stay at No. 1.

Wynne, Fayetteville, North Little Rock, Pulaski Academy and Fort Smith Northside all won easily (by 28 or more points) to stay in the next five slots.

Bryant moved up, and Greenwood moved down.

Jonesboro and Camden Fairview dropped out of the Top 10, while El Dorado and Benton moved in.

Here are the rankings after six weeks of the high school football season:

Overall

1. Conway

2. Wynne

3. Fayetteville

4. North Little Rock

5. Pulaski Academy

6. Fort Smith Northside

7. Bryant

8. El Dorado

9. Benton

10. Greenwood

Class 7A

1. Conway

2. Fayetteville

3. North Little Rock

4. Fort Smith Northside

5. Bryant

Class 6A

1. El Dorado

2. Benton

3. Greenwood

4. Pine Bluff

5. Jonesboro

Class 5A

1. Wynne

2. Pulaski Academy

3. Sylvan Hills

4. Batesville

5. Maumelle

Class 4A

1. Pine Bluff Dollarway

2. Warren

3. Dardanelle

4. Mena

5. Nashville

Class 3A

1. Charleston

2. Booneville

3. Prescott

4. Smackover

5. Bald Knob

Class 2A

1. Junction City

2. Bearden

3. East Poinsett County

4. Hazen

5. Rison

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College football: Week 7

Friday, October 10th, 2014

The college football spotlight was on the state of Mississippi last weekend for the first time in my memory.

After Rebel and Bulldog victories, we entered the week with Ole Miss and Mississippi State tied for third in The Associated Press poll. That’s the highest the Rebels have been ranked since 1963 (the last time they won a Southeastern Conference championship in football) and the highest the Bulldogs have ever been ranked. Mississippi State’s previous best was No. 7 in 1981. The last SEC title at State? It was in 1941.

The AP poll has been around since 1936, and this was only the second time that four of the top six teams lost on the same weekend. The other time was 1990. It was quite a weekend of college football.

You have to believe that Alabama has been extremely focused in practice this week following that 23-17 loss at Ole Miss. As much as those of us in Arkansas would like it to be so, it’s hard to imagine an Alabama team losing back-to-back conference games.

For four consecutive weeks, I’ve missed only one pick per week. Last week’s miss was UCA at Stephen F. Austin. The 3-3 Bears have been hard to figure out in their first season under head coach Steve Campbell. They will try to go to 3-0 in Southland Conference play on Saturday night in Conway against Houston Baptist.

With last week’s 6-1 record on the picks, the season record is now 43-4.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 7 of the college football season:

Alabama 30, Arkansas 19 — Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns as the Rebels went to 5-0 for the first time since 1962, ending a 10-game losing streak against the Crimson Tide. Arkansas will try to establish the run first on Saturday in Fayetteville, but quarterback Brandon Allen is also going to have to have a great day passing for Arkansas to have a chance. Arkansas, which has the SEC’s longest losing streak when it comes to conference games, has not scored on Alabama since the third quarter of the 2011 game. Alabama has shut out the Razorbacks the last nine quarters. Arkansas will score some points Saturday; just not enough.

Arkansas State 28, Georgia State 22 — The Red Wolves are 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the Sun Belt Conference following last week’s victory over Louisiana-Monroe in a night game at Jonesboro. It’s off to Atlanta this week as ASU takes on Georgia State in its homecoming game at the Georgia Dome. Georgia State is 1-4 overall and 0-2 in Sun Belt conference action but has kept most games close. The only win was 38-37 over Abilene Christian in the season opener. The losses have been by scores of 34-31 to New Mexico State, 48-38 to Air Force, 45-14 to Washington and 34-31 to Louisiana-Lafayette.

UCA 35, Houston Baptist 20 — This is a weak Houston Baptist team that’s coming to Conway. The only win was over the awful Texas College team (almost a club program) that a few of the Division II schools in Arkansas have picked on through the years. The Houston Baptist losses have been by scores of 26-17 to McMurry, 28-20 to Northern Colorado, 59-14 to Abilene Christian and 31-8 to Incarnate Word. It was a sweet victory for the Bears last week over former head coach Clint Conque, 49-39. UCA came back from a 31-21 deficit in the third quarter. Quarterback Taylor Reed out of El Dorado completed 14 of 18 passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns.

Ouachita 47, Northwestern Oklahoma 26 — Ouachita is one of four undefeated college teams in the state (along with Harding, Hendrix and Henderson). The 4-0 Tigers make their longest road trip of the season this week to Alva, Okla. Ouachita has won the past two seasons against the Rangers by scores of 45-21 and 55-3. The defense scored three touchdowns in Ouachita’s 54-21 victory over Southwestern Oklahoma last Saturday at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia. Kyle Lamothe had two fumble returns of 20 yards each for touchdowns and A.J. Burton returned an interception 70 yards for a score. It was 54-7 when Ouachita put in the substitutes.

Henderson 49, Southwestern Oklahoma 27 — The Reddies are 5-0 and ranked No. 7 in NCAA Division II. Last Saturday in Arkadelphia, they won their 28th consecutive regular-season game with a 63-14 thrashing of Northwestern Oklahoma. You’ll remember that Henderson quarterback Kevin Rodgers became the state’s all-time passing leader earlier in the fall. Well, Henderson also now has the state’s all-time receiving leader, senior Darius Davis. He has 2,959 receiving yards, breaking the record of 2,934 yards set by Jarius Wright at Arkansas from 2008-11. Rodgers was 25 of 33 passing last week for 296 yards and four touchdowns. Henderson led 43-0 at halftime, having outgained the Rangers 352 yards to 23 yards. Henderson finished the game with 619 yards of offense. This week’s opponent, Southwestern Oklahoma, is 2-3.

Southern Arkansas 31, Arkansas Tech 25 — This may be the closest game of the weekend in the Great American Conference. We’ll give a slight edge to the Muleriders since they’re playing at home. SAU is 2-3, and Arkansas Tech is 3-2. The Wonder Boys won by a point, 14-13, last year. Tech held on for an 18-13 victory over 1-4 UAM last Saturday in Russellville. Southern Arkansas, meanwhile, was being pounded by Harding, 56-13.

Harding 40, UAM 18 — Let’s again state what we’ve been saying all year: This is a VERY good Harding team. The Bisons lead NCAA Division II in both rushing and rush defense. In last week’s win over SAU, which made the Bisons 4-0, Harding rushed for 500 yards with six backs gaining 45 or more yards. It was Harding’s eighth consecutive victory, tying a school record set in 1972-73. UAM has lost four games by a total of 18 points. Against Arkansas Tech last week, the Boll Weevils had only 27 yards rushing and 169 yards of total offense.

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Rex’s Rankings: The halfway point

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014

We’ve reached the halfway point of the high school football season.

And you just had to know that Bentonville wouldn’t start 0-5. Last week, the Tigers moved to 1-4 by beating a Fort Smith Northside team that had begun the season 4-0 and soared to the No. 2 spot in our overall rankings.

Conway stays in the top position for a second consecutive week following a 35-10 win over Van Buren.

What have we learned in the first half of the season?

– Conway, Fayetteville, North Little Rock and Fort Smith Northside all have teams capable of winning the Class 7A title. Expect Bentonville and Bryant to make some noise down the stretch.

– Expect either Greenwood or Jonesboro to be the Class 6A champion with Benton, El Dorado and Lake Hamilton having the potential to surprise some folks.

– In Class 5A, Wynne and Pulaski Academy appear to be on a collision course for the state semifinals. It’s a shame that the bracket doesn’t have them meeting in the finals at War Memorial Stadium.

– If I had to say right now, I would go with either Dollarway or Warren in Class 4A.

– Charleston, Lamar, Prescott, Smackover and Booneville all have the talent in Class 3A to bring home a state title.

– Just words in Class 2A: Junction City.

Let’s get to the rankings:

Overall

1. Conway

2. Wynne

3. Fayetteville

4. North Little Rock

5. Pulaski Academy

6. Fort Smith Northside

7. Greenwood

8. Jonesboro

9. Camden Fairview

10. Bryant

Class 7A

1. Conway

2. Fayetteville

3. North Little Rock

4. Fort Smith Northside

5. Bryant

Class 6A

1. Greenwood

2. Jonesboro

3. Benton

4. El Dorado

5. Lake Hamilton

Class 5A

1. Wynne

2. Pulaski Academy

3. Camden Fairview

4. Sylvan Hills

5. Batesville

Class 4A

1. Pine Bluff Dollarway

2. Warren

3. Dardanelle

4. Mena

5. Fountain Lake

Class 3A

1. Charleston

2. Lamar

3. Prescott

4. Smackover

5. Booneville

Class 2A

1. Junction City

2. Bearden

3. East Pointsett County

4. Hazen

5. Rison

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College football: Week 6

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014

For three consecutive weeks, I’ve gone 8-1 on the picks.

For two consecutive weeks, I’ve been unable to figure out the Boll Weevils of the University of Arkansas at Monticello.

Two weeks ago, I picked UAM to beat the woeful club from Northwestern Oklahoma. The Weevils lost.

Last week, I figured the 0-3 Weevils would lose to a Southwestern Oklahoma team that came to Drew County with a 2-1 record following victories over Arkansas Tech and Southern Arkansas. The Weevils won convincingly, 33-14.

I was on the mark with everything else, including the prediction that Texas A&M would knock off Arkansas in Arlington, Texas. Granted, I would have been glad to have been wrong on that one.

The Razorbacks’ Southeastern Conference losing streak is now 14 games.

This is painful, I know, but here’s a quick recap: Arkansas led 28-14. It was the first play of the fourth quarter. Jonathan Williams ran 55 yards to the Aggie 1. With a 21-point lead, there would have been no way at that point for Arkansas to lose.

But tackle Dan Skipper was called for tripping. The 55-yard run was nullified, and the game changed course. And it changed course drastically.

From that point on, the Aggies outscored Arkansas 21-0 and outgained the Hogs 233 yards to 89 yards.

A&M had just 182 yards passing through three quarters, but the Aggies had 204 yards passing in the fourth quarter and overtime. Arkansas was unsuccessful on six third-down conversion attempts in the fourth quarter and overtime.

So the most recent SEC victory for the Hogs is still almost two years ago — Oct. 13, 2012, against Kentucky.

There’s an open date this week, and then Alabama comes to town.

With the Hogs open, it’s a chance for college football fans across the state to catch a game in Arkadelphia (where there are two contests), Jonesboro, Magnolia or Russellville on Saturday.

With that 8-1 record last week, the record for the season moves to 37-3. I shouldn’t be complaining, I guess. But dang those Weevils. A record of 39-1 would sound even better.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 6:

Arkansas State 29, Louisiana-Monroe 28 — This is a tough game to figure. It’s likely to be close. Louisiana-Monroe opened the season with wins of 17-10 over Wake Forest and 38-31 over Idaho before losing 31-0 to LSU in Baton Rouge. Last week, the Warhawks struggled at home before overcoming the weakest Troy team in years by just two points, 22-20. Arkansas State has had two weeks to prepare for this game following a 21-14 overtime victory over Utah State that evened the Red Wolves’ record at 2-2 heading into Sun Belt Conference play. ASU leads the series with Louisiana-Monroe, 21-14, since the first meeting in 1959. The Red Wolves have a 9-4 series lead since both teams have been in the Sun Belt. ASU has won in each of the past four seasons, including a 42-14 victory last year in Monroe. We’ll give a slight advantage to the home team due to the two weeks of preparation and the fact that it’s homecoming at Jonesboro.

Stephen F. Austin 24, UCA 21 — The Bears face their old coach, Clint Conque, down in the piney woods of east Texas on Saturday night. Conque has Stephen F. Austin off to a good start. After a 55-16 loss at Kansas State to open the season, the Lumberjacks have posted victories of 38-3 over Incarnate Word of Texas, 38-17 over Texas A&M-Commerce and 35-20 over Weber State. The 2-3 Bears have been hard to figure out in their first year under Steve Campbell. They got a break last week in getting to play poor ol’ Nicholls State, which lost to an FBS (Arkansas), a Division II (Henderson) and an FCS (UCA) team from the state of Arkansas all in the month of September. UCA downed the Colonels, 52-18, in a game in which the Bears never punted and even had two touchdown drives led by their third-team quarterback.

Southern University 17, UAPB 10 — The Golden Lions fell to 1-3 with a 33-30 loss to Jackson State in overtime last Saturday in Pine Bluff. UAPB was held to a 21-yard field goal in overtime, and then Jackson State scored on a 15-yard quarterback scramble. Southern is 2-3. The wins have been by scores of 56-14 over Central Methodist and 34-24 over Prairie View A&M. The losses have been by scores of 45-6 to Louisiana-Lafayette, 51-27 to Northwestern State of Louisiana and 56-16 to Alcorn State. SWAC games can be tough to figure. We’ll give Southern the nod since the game is being played at Baton Rouge.

Ouachita 35, Southwestern Oklahoma 27 — Ouachita is 3-0, but the Tigers haven’t always made it look easy. In their first road game of the season last Saturday at Durant, Okla., the Tigers scored with just 11 seconds left to win. Southeastern Oklahoma had gone ahead, 29-28, with 58 seconds remaining, but sophomore Brandon Marks from Prescott scored on the ground from 14 yards out to secure a 35-29 victory. Southwestern was blitzed by Harding in its first game by a score of 42-6 and then came back with two narrow victories — 27-23 over Arkansas Tech and 27-24 over Southern Arkansas. That was followed by the loss to a UAM team that had entered the game with an 0-3 record. It’s homecoming at Ouachita.

Henderson 69, Northwestern Oklahoma 20 — Northwestern is 1-3 after a 62-21 loss last week to Southern Arkansas. Henderson will do just as much, if not more, damage. The Reddies won their 27th consecutive regular-season game last Saturday with a 44-27 victory at East Central Oklahoma. Senior quarterback Kevin Rodgers was 30 of 45 passing for the Reddies for 309 yards and two touchdowns. Henderson, 4-0, finished with 465 yards of offense. Don’t expect Rodgers to play in Arkadelphia on Saturday afternoon after the first half.

Arkansas Tech 34, UAM 32 — Tech stepped up in classification last week and got thrashed by McNeese State down in Lake Charles, La. The Wonder Boys are 2-2. UAM lost its first three games by a total of 13 points and then looked like a real football team last week against the Southwestern Oklahoma squad that had defeated Tech earlier in the season . You should expect this game to be close with the advantage going to the home team. Among the six Great American Conference teams in Arkansas, it seems to be shaping up this way for 2014: Henderson and Harding in the top tier; Ouachita alone in the middle tier; Southern Arkansas, Arkansas Tech and UAM all in the next tier with little difference among those three teams.

Harding 41, Southern Arkansas 23 — Harding improved its record to 3-0 last week with a 58-0 victory over Southern Nazarene. The Bison defense, which is one of the best in NCAA Division II, held 0-4 Southern Nazarene to four yards rushing, two first downs and 42 yards of offense. Southern Arkansas seems to have found a quarterback. In the win over Northwestern Oklahoma that made the Muleriders 2-2 on the season, Si Blackshire passed for 377 yards and six touchdowns. SAU finished that game with 675 yards of offense.

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Rex’s Rankings: After four weeks

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014

Four weeks are in the books, and Fort Smith Northside continues to surprise us in high school football.

Going into last Friday, we had Fayetteville ranked No. 1 and Northside at No. 3.

The Grizzlies upset the Bulldogs, 27-24, in a game that wasn’t decided until the final seconds of play.

That vaulted 4-0 Conway into the top spot in the overall rankings. The Wampus Cats posted an impressive 45-10 victory over Siloam Springs last week.

Despite having one loss, I still think Greenwood is the class of Class 6A

And in Class 5A, Wynne and Pulaski Academy look to be on a collision course for the playoffs.

Here are the rankings as we head into Week 5:

Overall

1. Conway

2. Fort Smith Northside

3. Wynne

4. Fayetteville

5. North Little Rock

6. Pulaski Academy

7. Greenwood

8. Jonesboro

9. Fort Smith Southside

10. Camden Fairview

Class 7A

1. Conway

2. Fort Smith Northside

3. Fayetteville

4. North Little Rock

5. Fort Smith Southside

Class 6A

1. Greenwood

2. Jonesboro

3. Benton

4. El Dorado

5. Lake Hamilton

Class 5A

1. Wynne

2. Pulaski Academy

3. Camden Fairview

4. Sylvan Hills

5. Batesville

Class 4A

1. Nashville

2. Star City

3. Malvern

4. Dollarway

5. Warren

Class 3A

1. Charleston

2. Lamar

3. Prescott

4. Smackover

5. Booneville

Class 2A

1. Junction City

2. Bearden

3. East Poinsett County

4. Hazen

5. Rison

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