College football — Week 8

A week ago, we wrote this: “Expect Arkansas to play well for at least three quarters before wearing down in The Swamp. The Hogs won’t embarrass you. They won’t upset the No. 1 team in the country, either.”

They didn’t upset No. 1. But they did play well. They didn’t embarrass you. In fact, they made you proud.

Now, expectations are high as the Razorbacks head to beautiful little Oxford for the match against Houston Nutt’s Rebels. It’s good to see the Arkansas-Ole Miss rivalry getting back to what it was in the days when the two schools played non-conference games against each other. In fact, the late Orville Henry wrote that the most significant play in Razorback history — that 1954 pass from Buddy Benson to Preston Carpenter at War Memorial Stadium — came in a game against Ole Miss. It was that play, Henry believed, that made Razorback football a meaningful statewide entity.

In a recent speech to the Little Rock Touchdown Club, Frank Broyles said one of the most brilliant moves made by John Barnhill in his years as athletic director at the University of Arkansas was to begin giving Razorback football broadcasts away for free to any radio station that wanted them. Prior to that, a lot of people in east Arkansas listened to Ole Miss games on Saturdays. A lot of people in south Arkansas listened to LSU games. And a lot of people in west Arkansas listened to Oklahoma games.

Since beginning SEC football play in 1992, Arkansas has never developed a true rival. LSU has come close at times to being that most hated opponent. But as long as native Arkansan Nutt is at Ole Miss, the Hogs will have their real conference rival.

In the way of a reality check, don’t forget that Arkansas is just 3-3 overall and last in the SEC West with a 1-3 conference record. But due to the improvement witnessed during the past three weeks, it’s safe to say that no team in the country with a 1-3 conference record has a fan base as enthused as the Arkansas fan base.

Last week was a bad week in the picks’ department. We went 3-4, leaving us 33-18 for the year.

Arkansas State let everyone down on a Tuesday night in Monroe. This was a team we thought would contend for the Sun Belt Conference championship. ASU now finds itself 0-2 in conference play going into Saturday’s homecoming game at Jonesboro.

UCA also let us down. The Bears shouldn’t have lost at home to Stephen F. Austin. Two fumbled punts and a blocked punt did them in. Those three plays led to three of the Lumberjacks’ four touchdowns.

UAM laid an egg at West Alabama after we had picked the Boll Weevils to make it three victories in a row. This is a team that can look great one week and horrible the next.

And Ouachita continues to confound us. This team won its first four games and has since lost three straight. We have incorrectly picked the Ouachita game for five consecutive weeks. We picked the Tigers to lose to traditional national powers Valdosta State and Delta State. Ouachita won both games and rose to No. 14 in the NCAA Division II rankings. So we picked the Tigers to beat UAM, Harding and Southern Arkansas. The Tigers lost all three of those games. Ouachita is killing our season average.

This is homecoming Saturday across Arkansas. It’s homecoming at Arkansas State, UAPB, UCA, UAM and Henderson. Expect good crowds on a beautiful fall weekend at Jonesboro, Pine Bluff, Conway, Monticello and Arkadelphia.

Let’s dive into the picks for this week:

Arkansas 35, Ole Miss 27 — The Razorbacks will get it done in Oxford. HDN will run out of fingernails to chew by the end of the game. Ole Miss KAs in starched white shirts, khakis and rep ties — after too much Old Charter in their Cokes — will be heard to say words no one ever expected to hear as they stumble out of the stadium: “Bring back Ed Orgeron.” That’s what happens when a team that was in the preseason Top 10 finds itself at 1-3 in the SEC following losses to South Carolina, Alabama and Arkansas.

Arkansas State 36, Florida International 24 — You’ve played around enough, Red Wolves. You’re 1-4. It’s homecoming. It’s time to begin living up to your potential. Florida International comes in at 1-5 with losses to Alabama, Toledo, Rutgers, Louisiana-Monroe and Troy. The only win was over Western Kentucky. And, even then, the Golden Panthers didn’t beat Western Kentucky as handily as UCA did earlier this season. This should be a good week for Steve Roberts’ team to get well and begin feeling better about itself.

UAPB 49, Edward Waters 17 — When football fans across the state saw the UAPB schedule at the start of the season, they probably asked this question: “Who the heck is Edward Waters?” We’ll tell you. Edward Waters College is a historically black college in Jacksonville, Fla. In 2001, the school began playing football again after a 34-year hiatus. It’s an NAIA school. Whoever schedules the homecoming game at UAPB sure knows how to pick an opponent. The Tigers are 0-7 after losses to Brevard College, Johnson C. Smith University, Alabama State, Fort Valley State, North Greenville University, Webber International University and Concordia College. Homecoming is a huge deal at UAPB. Motel rooms all over southeast Arkansas will be full this weekend. The weather will be perfect. Almost 20,000 people will pack one of the state’s nicest football stadiums. And the Golden Lions will go to 4-2 on the season.

UCA 39, Nicholls State 19 — The Bears should never have let that conference game get away last week. They won’t make the same mistake this Saturday. They will be primed for their homecoming game against a 1-5 Nicholls State team that has lost to Air Force (72-0), Louisiana Tech, Jacksonville State, Sam Houston State and Texas State while beating only Duquesne. UCA Coach Clint Conque played at Nicholls State, where he was a team captain and an All-American linebacker. He was inducted into the school’s athletic hall of fame in 2005. There’s no way he will allow the Bears to overlook this game. 

Harding 24, UAM 21 — Both of these teams have been up and down. So we don’t make this pick with a lot of confidence. A Boll Weevil win at home would not surprise us, in fact. UAM is 3-5 with quality wins over UAPB and Ouachita (along with an expected win over hapless West Georgia). Harding is 4-4 with wins over Missouri Southern, Southwest Baptist, Southern Arkansas and Ouachita. I’ve seen both teams play this year, and Harding appears a little better.

Arkansas Tech 38, Henderson 34 — This could be the best game of the week in the Gulf South Conference. Nick Graziano is having an amazing season for the 5-2 Wonder Boys, who could still make the NCAA Division II playoffs by winning their final three games against Henderson, Delta State and Harding. The 3-4 Reddies have looked good at times, and it’s their homecoming game.

Delta State 21, Southern Arkansas 10 — This is not the Delta State of past years. This team won’t be in the national playoffs. But the Statesmen do have enough talent to win at home against a 2-5 Southern Arkansas team that gets a little better each week.

Southwest Baptist 37, Ouachita 35 — We should give up picking Ouachita games. But we’re committed to picking every Arkansas university every week. We hope the Tigers win every game. We pick, though, on what we think might happen, not what we hope will happen. Who knows? Who really knows?

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