College football: Week 5 (Alabama edition)

It’s great to be here in the state of Alabama.

We’ll start the week by picking the outcome of the Alabama Crimson Tide and Auburn Tiger games.

What’s that you say?

Auburn has an open date, giving the Tigers two weeks to prepare for Arkansas?

OK, let’s start with Ole Miss at Alabama.

Excuse me?

Say what?

We’re not in Alabama?

We’re in Arkansas?

Never mind.

There I go.

Having fun, along with everyone else, at the expense of John L. Smith.

I should refrain from that. What a nice guy. I enjoyed visiting briefly with him before Monday’s meeting of the Little Rock Touchdown Club. I know I would enjoy having him as a dinner companion.

I was sitting just to Smith’s right when he made the now-famous verbal slip (the story even made The Wall Street Journal this morning). I whispered “Arkansas.”

He didn’t hear me.

Look, I’ve spent decades giving speeches and talking on the radio. It’s easy to make mistakes when speaking. This man was put in a no-win situation. He will be a blip in the history of University of Arkansas football.

Take a deep, deep breath and enjoy the fall weather. This too shall pass.

Let’s repeat a couple of things we’ve said in previous weeks:

1. The best thing Jeff Long can do for the long term is nothing in the short term. Focus on hiring the best coach possible at the end of the season. Another change now would only add to the confusion.

2. Everyone should have realized coming into the season that due to the unusual circumstances, this would be a season to survive, not a season to savor. We have only ourselves to blame for buying into the preseason hype.

There’s good college football being played in Arkansas. It’s just not being played in Fayetteville.

UCA opened Sun Belt Conference play with an important win at home.

UAPB won a second consecutive conference game on the road.

Four of the state’s six Great American Conference teams are undefeated — Henderson is 4-0, Ouachita is 3-0, Harding is 3-0 and Southern Arkansas is 3-0.

We were 6-3 last week on the picks — and should have known better than to pick Arkansas over Rutgers — making the record 28-6 for the season thus far.

On to the picks for Week 5:

Texas A&M 44, Arkansas 31 — The Razorbacks will score lots of points. Unfortunately, the Aggies will score more against a horrible (by SEC standards) Arkansas defense. After having its first game postponed due to a tropical storm (the Aggies were supposed to play Louisiana Tech in Shreveport; that game will now be played Oct. 13), A&M opened at home against Florida. The Aggies fell, 20-17. They’ve since come back with victories of 48-3 over SMU and 70-14 over South Carolina State.

Western Kentucky 32, Arkansas State 30 — It will be a tough Sun Belt Conference opener in Jonesboro on Saturday night for the 2-2 Red Wolves. Western Kentucky opened with a 49-10 victory over Austin Peay and didn’t play that badly in a 35-0 loss to Alabama in Tuscaloosa (17 points closer than the Razorbacks came to beating Alabama). That was followed by two quality victories –32-31 over Kentucky in Lexington and 42-17 at home against Southern Mississippi. After having to play at Oregon and Nebraska in two of its first three games, Arkansas State got a nice break last weekend against lowly Alcorn State, winning 56-0 in Jonesboro. ASU outgained Alcorn, 634-130. Ryan Aplin was 12 of 13 passing for 198 yards and three touchdowns. It should be a fun, close game before hopefully a big crowd in Jonesboro this weekend.

UCA 29, Stephen F. Austin 27 — Last Saturday’s win for UCA was one of the biggest in the history of the program. Sam Houston State came in ranked No. 3 in the FCS and led 20-10 with less than four minutes remaining in the game. First, Bear quarterback Wynrick Smothers scored on a 17-yard run with 3:18 left. He then threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Dominique Croom with just 57 seconds showing on the clock. The Bears are now 3-1 after beating Sam Houston for the first time since 2008. Smothers was 24 of 41 passing for 318 yards and two touchdowns. Croom had seven catches for 113 yards. Stephen F. Austin opened with a 49-14 win over an NCAA Division II foe, Southwestern Oklahoma. SFA has since lost three consecutive games — 52-0 to SMU, 43-35 to Montana State and 41-37 to Texas State.

Tennessee State 17, UAPB 13 — On Thursday night of last week, UAPB went to 3-1 overall and 2-1 in the SWAC with a 24-21 victory over Alabama State in Montgomery. The game was televised nationally by ESPNU. Alabama State missed a field goal attempt in the final minute that could have sent the game to overtime. It was the Golden Lions’ second road conference victory in a six-day period. Ben Anderson passed for 220 yards, and Justin Billings rushed for 127 yards. UAPB goes on the road for a third consecutive game as Tennessee State celebrates its homecoming in Nashville. Tennessee State is 4-0 with victories of 17-14 over Florida A&M, 38-12 over Jackson State, 34-14 over Austin Peay and 21-14 over Bethune-Cookman.

Ouachita 28, Southeastern Oklahoma 24 — Ouachita moved up to No. 12 nationally in NCAA Division II following a 31-24 victory over Arkansas Tech in Arkadelphia. But injuries already are adding up for the 3-0 Tigers, the defending Great American Conference champion. Ouachita lost its starting quarterback, GAC 2011 Offensive Player of the Year Casey Cooper, in the first game. Last Saturday, quarterback Benson Jordan injured his shoulder. The Tigers’ defense is improved over last season, however. Southeastern Oklahoma opened the season with a nonconference victory over Texas A&M-Commerce but has since dropped two consecutive conference games — 31-24 to Southern Arkansas and 56-20 to Henderson.

Henderson 52, Southwestern Oklahoma 35 — The Reddie offense just outscores folks. Henderson is now ranked No. 17 in NCAA Division II. In last Saturday’s 56-20 victory over Southeastern Oklahoma at Arkadelphia, Reddie quarterback Kevin Rodgers was 15 of 28 passing for 269 yards and two touchdowns. Southwestern Oklahoma is 1-2 overall and 1-1 in conference play. Southwestern will score some points, but it won’t be enough to match Henderson’s output.

Harding 33, East Central Oklahoma 22 — The Bisons, who have won three consecutive road games, are not yet nationally ranked. But they should be. They have the best ground game in Division II. In a 42-13 win over Southern Nazarene last Saturday, Harding rushed for 441 yards on a school-record 79 running plays. Harding is 3-0 for the first time since 2004. East Central is 2-2 overall and 1-1 in the GAC, having defeated UAM, 31-17, last weekend.

Southern Arkansas 19, UAM 17 — The 3-0 Muleriders have been a pleasant surprise. They posted a 35-34 victory over Southwestern Oklahoma last Saturday. Mulerider quarterback Tyler Sykora is the real deal. He was 24 of 36 passing for 281 yards and five touchdowns against Southwestern Oklahoma. UAM dropped to 1-3 with its loss to East Central Oklahoma in Ada.

Arkansas Tech 35, Northwestern Oklahoma 16 — The Wonder Boys looked much better in their 31-24 loss to Ouachita than they had looked the week before in a 73-34 loss to Henderson. Tech is 1-3, but there’s a bright side. That’s the fact that the Wonder Boys have scored a combined 58 points the past two weeks against the No. 17 and No. 12 teams in the country. It will pay off this week against an 0-4 Northwestern Oklahoma team.

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