I spoke to the Helena Rotary Club today.
In far east Arkansas — the land that produced Ken Hatfield, Dick Hatfield and so many other past Razorback greats; a land the university seems to be forgetting with all this talk about moving games out of Little Rock — nothing is more important for Razorback fans than beating Ole Miss.
You can imagine how frustrated those folks are this week.
At least the guy who wore the Ole Miss cap to the Rotary Club meeting was happy, as he should be since it seems that Hugh Freeze has at least put some life back into that previously moribund program.
The record had been good on our picks this year, but last week started badly (as far as the picks) and ended badly.
I picked Arkansas State to lose in a Tuesday night game against Louisiana-Lafayette.
I picked Arkansas to win against Ole Miss at War Memorial Stadium.
Then I made the long drive to Ada, Okla., on Saturday to watch my Ouachita Tigers lay an egg against East Central Oklahoma.
It was a college football weekend to forget.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad ASU beat Louisiana-Lafayette to start the week. It’s just that I wish I had picked it correctly. Playing their best game in the young Gus Malzahn era, the Red Wolves rolled to an impressive 50-28 victory in Lafayette with an ESPN2 national television audience looking on.
The ASU victory ended an eight-game losing streak for the school at Cajun Stadium as the Red Wolves improved to 5-3 overall and 3-1 in the Sun Belt Conference. The defense came up with four turnovers, and the offense turned those turnovers into 20 points.
It was the third consecutive victory for ASU as quarterback Ryan Aplin completed 21 of 31 passes for 269 yards and a touchdown. The Red Wolves finished with 526 yards of offense while scoring on their first six possessions.
Arkansas’ 30-27 loss to Ole Miss on that 31-yard Bryson Rose field goal as time expired is best forgotten.
The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette headline the next morning said it best: “Adding to anguish.”
Remember Hog fans what I said back in September: This is not a season to savor. It is a season to survive.
You allowed yourselves to get excited again after big wins over Auburn and Kentucky, didn’t you? You forgot that those are two of the worst teams in college football this fall.
So now we’ll have four SEC schools — Arkansas, Auburn, Kentucky and Tennessee — looking for new head coaches at the end of the season.
Just to our southwest, Texas may also be looking for a new head coach.
It’s going to be an interesting December.
We were 5-3 on the picks last week, making the record 57-15 for the season.
Let’s get to the picks for Week 10:
Arkansas 31, Tulsa 30 — I’m not sure why I’m doing this. If Tulsa comes in and spoils the Arkansas homecoming, I won’t be the least bit surprised. Tulsa lost its first game at Iowa State, 38-23, and has since run off seven consecutive victories. The scores have been 45-10 over Tulane, 66-16 over Nicholls State, 27-26 over Fresno State, 49-42 over UAB, 45-38 over Marshall, 33-11 over UTEP and 28-24 over Rice. The game starts early, and there likely will be plenty of empty seats. At least the leaves should be pretty for those driving to Fayeteville.
Arkansas State 34, North Texas 28 — The Red Wolves must go on the road to battle North Texas, a team that has struggled to a 3-5 record but remains capable of beating anybody in the conference. The North Texas wins have come by scores of 34-7 over Texas Southern, 20-14 over Florida Atlantic and 30-23 over Louisiana-Lafayette. The losses have come by scores of 41-14 to LSU, 35-21 to Kansas State, 14-7 to Troy, 44-21 to Houston and 38-21 to Middle Tennessee State. It sure would be nice to see Malzahn run the table and make a bowl game in his first year as a head coach.
UCA 24, Northwestern State 21 — The Bears, who are 7-2 overall and 5-1 in the Southland Conference, can lock up the Southland’s automatic bid to the NCAA playoffs with a win. UCA has run off four consecutive victories against Nicholls State, McNeese State, Lamar and Louisiana-Lafayette. UCA is one of three one-loss teams in Southland play along with Sam Houston State and Southeastern Louisiana. The Bears are playing well, averaging 35.4 points and 391.9 yards of offense per game. Quarterback Wynrick Smothers is completing 67.1 percent of his passes. He has 2,292 yards passing and 23 touchdowns. Jesse Grandy has 44 receptions for 628 yards. The game is the Southland Conference television game of the week and can be seen in central Arkansas on KARZ-TV. Northwestern State is 4-4 overall and 2-2 in the Southland Conference with wins over UAM, Mississippi Valley State, Lamar and Nicholls State. The losses have come at the hands of Texas Tech, Nevada, McNeese State and Southeastern Louisiana.
UAPB 17, Texas Southern 10 — The Golden Lions appear on their way to the SWAC championship game at Legion Field in Birmingham. They still sit alone atop the conference’s Western Division following a 10-0 shutout of Mississippi Valley State last Saturday that gave the Golden Lions records of 6-2 overall and 5-1 in conference. Texas Southern is 2-6 overall and 2-4 in the SWAC. The wins have come by scores of 44-41 over Prairie View A&M and 23-20 over Grambling. The losses have been by scores of 34-7 to North Texas, 45-25 to Jackson State, 42-13 to Alabama A&M, 50-6 to Sam Houston State, 45-0 to Alabama State and 34-7 to Southern University.
Southern Arkansas 32, Ouachita 27 — This should be an excellent game between two 6-2 teams at Arkadelphia’s A.U. Williams Field. Ouachita started the season 6-0 and soared to No. 10 in the NCAA Division II rankings before the injuries took their toll and the Tigers ran out of gas. Back-to-back losses have come at the hands of Harding and East Central Oklahoma. Southern Arkansas lost earlier in the year on a last-second field goal to 7-1 Harding and played 9-0 Henderson closer last week than anyone has done so far. The Reddies hung on, 44-36. The Muleriders are led by talented quarterback Tyler Sykora, who completed 33 of 55 passes for 411 yards and three touchdowns against Henderson. SAU easily could be 8-0.
Harding 45, Southeastern Oklahoma 23 — Harding is trying to finish the regular season with a 9-1 record, earn a berth in the Division II playoffs and perhaps get a rematch against Henderson down the line. The Bisons destroyed Arkansas Tech last week, 76-23. Harding had 505 yards rushing in its homecoming victory at Searcy. Seven Bisons had rushing touchdowns while the Harding defense forced six turnovers and had five sacks. Southeastern Oklahoma is 4-4 overall and 2-4 in the Great American Conference.
East Central Oklahoma 38, Arkansas Tech 26 — East Central looked good in its 37-27 win over Ouachita, and Tech looked bad in its loss to Harding. We’ll go with the visitors from Oklahoma this week even though Tech has the better record. The Wonder Boys are 5-4 overall and 3-3 in GAC play. East Central is 4-5 overall and 2-4 in conference action but seems to have the hotter hand coming out of last weekend.
Southwestern Oklahoma 19, UAM 18 — This is a battle between the two teams at the bottom of the GAC standings. Southwestern Oklahoma is 2-6 overall and 1-5 in league play. UAM is 1-8 overall and and 0-7 in conference play. UAM fell 41-35 last week to Southeastern Oklahoma despite a season-high 237 rushing yards. We’ll give the slight edge to the home team in this one.