After a week off, the Razorbacks open Southeastern Conference play against Georgia as ESPN sends its top team to Fayetteville to telecast the contest. And after a tough trip to Nebraska, the Red Wolves have an open date. UCA returns to action following an open date with a trip to Western Kentucky. And there’s an early season showdown in the Gulf South Conference as Valdosta State takes on Ouachita at 7 p.m. Saturday in Arkadelphia.
The record last week was 5-2. Harding won in three overtimes over Southwest Baptist in a game I had predicted would be high scoring and could go either way. The problem is I predicted Southwest Baptist would win. I also thought Arkansas Tech could get it done on the road against West Alabama. That didn’t happen as the Wonder Boys lost a close one.
The record for the season is 12-3. Here goes for this week:
Arkansas 38, Georgia 35 — OK, call me a total homer. But I’m just not impressed by Georgia. I spent last weekend in Georgia (the things I do for you people) and read everything I could get my hands on regarding the Bulldogs. They were not impressive in an opening loss to an Oklahoma State team that turned around and lost to Houston the next week (Houston, for gosh sakes!). And they barely hung on against a less-than-vintage South Carolina team, breaking up a fourth-down pass at the end to win 41-37. That crazy game featured a kickoff return for a touchdown, an interception return for a touchdown, a safety, a blocked extra point and 24 penalties. Arkansas and Georgia do not have two of the SEC’s better defenses. The Hogs outscore the Bulldogs in a track meet.
UCA 31, Western Kentucky 30 — OK, call me a homer again. But consider the fact that the Bears have had two weeks to prepare for this game. Consider the fact that several rating services had Western Kentucky ranked going into the season 120th out of 120 Division I football teams. Consider the fact that the Bears could have and should have won against a team from Hawaii that is much better than the Hilltoppers. Since beginning its transition from Division I-AA to Division I during the 2007 season (as stated earlier, I refuse to use that FBS and FCS stuff), Western Kentucky is 7-0 against Division I-AA teams. Come Saturday night, that record will be 7-1.
Mississippi Valley State 40, UAPB 38 – These are two bad college football teams. Mississippi Valley State lost its opener against Arkansas State, 61-0. UAPB was ripped in its opener by a Division II UAM team that is now 1-2. The Golden Lions did come back a week later to beat an NAIA team at home. Give Mississippi Valley State a slight edge since the game is in Itta Bena.
Valdosta State 37, Ouachita 34 — The Ouachita football program is on its best run since the 1980s, having won seven consecutive games dating back to the middle of last season. The Tigers have scored a combined 100 points in their first two games this year. In last week’s 48-14 win at West Georgia, Ouachita raced out to a 41-7 halftime lead. It was one of the best halves of football I have ever seen a Ouachita team play. If the Tigers can string together four quarters like last week, they have a chance to upset this traditional Division II power from Georgia. Perhaps having their play-by-play man pick against them will inspire the Baptist Bengals. If you don’t have a ticket in Fayetteville, you owe it to yourself to drive to Arkadelphia for Saturday night’s game. It should be fun.
Henderson 39, UAM 31 – Monticello is the place where the late, great Sporty Carpenter once took a nationally ranked Reddie team, was upset by the Boll Weevils and uttered this famous quote: “Lightning struck the outhouse, and we were in it.” This Henderson team is 0-3 but played well in losses to Division 1-AA McNeese State and Terry Bowden’s Division II national power from North Alabama. UAM beat UAPB but looked terrible in losses to Tarleton State and Delta State. Scott Buisson is still there as the quarterback, but he doesn’t look like the Scott Buisson of last year. Henderson quarterback Roch Charpentier left school this week. He was Henderson’s all-time passing leader with 4,512 yards in 21 games. But his replacement, redshirt freshman Nathan Nall, went the distance two weeks ago against McNeese when Charpentier was suspended. Nall was 12 of 26 for 123 yards and a touchdown. I’ll stick with the Reddies. If the real Buisson shows up, though, all bets are off.
Delta State 45, Harding 24 — The Bisons are 2-1 and improved since last year. But they can’t hang with the nationally ranked Statesmen on the road.
West Alabama 27, Southern Arkansas 24 — This is the Thursday night Gulf South Conference television game of the week. West Alabama is off to a 3-0 start and plays for a fourth straight week on a Thursday. Southern Arkansas has started 0-2 in the Bill Keopple era with losses to national powers North Alabama and Valdosta State. West Alabama is not to be confused with those two schools. The Muleriders have a chance in Magnolia.