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.