Thank goodness it’s football season.
Like many of my fellow Southerners, I love this time of year.
I’ve mentioned the work of Clarksdale, Miss., native Wright Thompson before. As we approach the first full weekend of the college season, it’s worth returning to the ode to Southern football he wrote for ESPN.com.
“The entire South is about ready to explode as summer ends and autumn begins,” Thompson wrote. “Football’s coming. The preseason magazines appear. Wallet-sized schedules materialize on gas station counters. Meals out are eaten over the soundtrack of folks predicting wins and losses — and not just sports fans with fantasy teams and chicken wing sauce on their chins. No, grandmothers in Chanel and pearls get worked up — I mean fired up, brother — about beating LSU.
“I love the hope of those preseason predictions. I love 0-0. I love talking about Archie liked he played yesterday, because the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past. I love game day, the cars hurtling north from Jackson and Biloxi and Vicksburg and Meridian. I love Hermes ties paired with Widespread Panic hats.”
Yes, it’s that time.
More than 400 people showed up today at the Embassy Suites in Little Rock for the season’s first meeting of the Little Rock Touchdown Club. Former Texas Tech head coach Mike Leach was an entertaining speaker.
But I think the crowd would have been large for most anyone.
That’s because we’re hungry for some football.
“I love most everything about Southern football, but more than anything else, I love for it to begin,” Thompson wrote.
Amen and amen.
Winston Groom, the author of “Forest Gump” and an Alabama football fan, told Thompson this: “I do think that in the state of Alabama, anybody planning a wedding is gonna get out a schedule because the worst damn thing you can do is have your wedding on the Alabama-Auburn game or the Tennessee game because nobody will come to your wedding. They had one here like that, but they put up a big old huge TV at the place where they had the reception. One of those big giant things, about eight feet tall. As a matter of fact, in the state of Alabama, I wouldn’t even plan a funeral when Alabama is playing Auburn. You can die, but you’re gonna wait ’til Monday.”
It’s time. Let’s get to the picks:
Arkansas 62, Tennessee Tech 19 — You have to start with somebody, right? As I said, people are hungry for some football. That’s why the 72,000 seats will be filled in Fayetteville for the start of the game Saturday night. By the end of the third quarter, Interstate 540 southbound will be crowded with folks getting an early start home after a long day of tailgating. And those tailgaters will turn around and do it all over again a week later in Little Rock.
Auburn 48, Arkansas State 23 — Two years ago, the Red Wolves shocked Texas A&M in College Station to start the season. That was fun. Last year, Steve Roberts’ Arkansas State team gave Iowa all it wanted in Iowa City before falling to the Hawkeyes. This one won’t be as close. Auburn is my sleeper in the SEC this year. The Tigers are going to be very good.
UTEP 45, UAPB 20 — Mike Price must bring his team to Fayetteville on Nov. 13. But first UTEP must open the season against another school that’s part of the University of Arkansas system. Monte Coleman is a class act. I think his Golden Lions will be improved over the 5-5 squad of a year ago. But this isn’t the week to pull an upset. Just remember those famous words Price allegedly uttered down in Pensacola: “It’s rolling, baby, it’s rolling.”
UCA 41, Elizabeth City State 22 — The Bears get things rolling Thursday night at Estes Stadium in Conway against a Division II squad. Elizabeth City State opened its season last Saturday with a 45-27 victory over Johnson C. Smith (who’s he?). Actually, the visitors have some talent. Elizabeth City State finished 7-4 last year in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association. Founded in 1912, the CIAA is the oldest black athletic conference in the country with 13 historically black colleges and universities as members.
Ouachita 51, Texas College 8 — This Thursday night game in Arkadelphia will be the first college football game of the year to be broadcast on KABZ-FM, 103.7 The Buzz, in Little Rock. Join us at 7 p.m. Thursday for the broadcast. We’ll make it fun. Ouachita opened the season last year in Tyler, Texas, with a 52-6 win over Texas College. Expect about the same results this time around.
West Alabama 34, UAM 31 — The Boll Weevils open their season in Monticello on Thursday night against a fellow member of the Gulf South Conference, but this game does not count in the conference standings. This is the first game in the Gulf South Conference’s 2010 television package. West Alabama made the NCAA Division II playoffs last year, its first postseason appearance since 1975. West Alabama is ranked 10th nationally in this week’s American Football Coaches Association Division II poll after a 37-7 win over Shorter (not the one in North Little Rock; they don’t play football) this past Saturday. UAM should be explosive offensively with Scott Buisson in his senior year at quarterback. This just might turn out to be the most exciting game in the state this week.
Arkansas Tech 28, Lambuth 20 — In yet another Thursday night game, the Wonder Boys host an NAIA school in Russellville. But this isn’t just any NAIA school. Lambuth was coached last year by Hugh Freeze, now the offensive coordinator at Arkansas State. Freeze (who was portrayed by Little Rock’s Ray McKinnon in the movie “The Blind Side”)led Lambuth to an undefeated regular season in 2009 and the quarterfinals of the NAIA playoffs. Lambuth is now coached by Ron Dickerson. He was the head coach at Division I Temple from 1993-97 and at Alabama State of the SWAC in 1998-99. He was a combined 15-62 in those head coaching stints. Lambuth opened the season with a 60-6 rout of Shepherd College.
North Alabama 35, Henderson 27 — The Reddies must go to Florence, Ala., on Saturday to take on Terry Bowden’s Lions, ranked No. 4 nationally this week in the AFCA Division II poll. Henderson was the only Arkansas school to open the season last week. The Reddies were impressive in a 44-13 win over Southeastern Oklahoma in Arkadelphia on Thursday night. Henderson had 469 yards of offense in that game. Quarterback Nick Hardesty completed 32 of 46 passes for 355 yards and four touchdowns. Expect Scott Maxfield’s Reddies to give North Alabama all it wants. Both teams are in the Gulf South Conference, but this doesn’t count as a conference game.
Harding 17, Southern Arkansas 14 — This is another example of two GSC teams playing each other in a game that doesn’t count in the conference standings. I think I’ll drive to Searcy to see this one on Saturday night. You see, Saturday is also the first day of dove season, which is about as big for a lot of Southern males as the first day of college football season. I’m getting too old to hunt in Monroe on Saturday morning and then make it to Fayetteville for kickoff. So I’ll hunt in Monroe and see a game in Searcy. It should be a good one. Harding was 5-6 last season. Southern Arkansas was 3-7 in its first year under Bill Keopple. Both teams should be better in 2010.