College football: Week 12 (end of the road)

This is the final week for college football picks on the Southern Fried blog this fall. I’ll likely jinx myself by mentioning this, but I’m 15-0 on picks for the past two weeks.

That makes the record 72-15 for the season.

It was yet another SEC loss in this bummer of a season for the Arkansas Razorbacks, this time by a count of 38-20 at South Carolina. That dropped the Hogs to 4-6 overall and 2-4 in conference play. The Gamecocks improved to 8-2 overall and 6-2 in the SEC.

Arkansas’ struggles have overshadowed the fact that this has been a very good year overall for college football in our state. Consider the fact that:

— Arkansas State went to 7-3 overall and 5-1 in the Sun Belt Conference last Thursday night with a 45-23 win over Louisiana-Monroe before a crowd of more than 30,000 in Jonesboro.

— UCA is 8-2 going into its final game of the regular season in Conway on Saturday. The Bears won a share of the Southland Conference championship and have secured a playoff spot.

— UAPB is also 8-2 going into its final game of the regular season in Pine Bluff on Saturday afternoon. The Golden Lions already have secured the championship of the Western Division of the SWAC and a spot in the SWAC championship game at Legion Field in Birmingham.

— Henderson finished the regular season 10-0 with a resounding victory in the Battle of the Ravine over 6-4 Ouachita. It’s the first undefeated, untied regular season in school history. The Reddies get a bye in the first round of the NCAA Division II playoffs and will host a second-round game in Arkadelphia on the Saturday after Thanksgiving.

— Harding finished the regular season 9-1 and earned a berth in the Division II playoffs.

— Southern Arkansas finished the regular season 8-2.

— Seven of the 10 college programs in Arkansas will have winning records this year.

All in all, it’s as fine a year of college football as I can remember in this state.

On to the picks for Week 12:

Mississippi State 31, Arkansas 27 — At least there were three Razorbacks who set records in last week’s loss to South Carolina. Tyler Wilson completed 26 of 41 passes for 277 yards to give himself 539 career completions. That breaks the previous record of 528 completions set by Clint Stoerner from 1996-99. Cobi Hamilton now holds the season record for receiving yards, breaking a record set just last year by Jarius Wright. And Zach Hocker’s two field goals and two extra points against South Carolina gave him 285 points in his career, breaking the record of 280 points set by Steve Little from 1974-77. Arkansas has now allowed at least 30 points in six games. The only two times that happened before was 2007 and 2008. As you can see from the predicted score above, I expect the Hogs to give up at least 30 points again Saturday in Starkville. Still, this Bulldog team is vulnerable and doubting itself after three consecutive losses. LSU beat Mississippi State for the 13th consecutive time last Saturday as the resurgent Zach Mettenberger completed 19 of 30 passes for 273 yards against the 7-3 Bulldogs. Mississippi State had only 47 yards rushing against LSU.

Arkansas State 28, Troy 24 — The Red Wolves were impressive in their win last week over Louisiana-Monroe. Ryan Aplin was 26 of 34 passing for 334 yards and two touchdowns. This team is starting to learn the Malzahn system. ASU ran off 21 unanswered points after Louisiana-Monroe had come back to tie the score at 17-17 in the third quarter. David Oku had 22 carries for 131 yards and three touchdowns for the Red Wolves. It was the fifth consecutive win for the Red Wolves as representatives of the New Orleans Bowl and the Liberty Bowl looked on. Troy is 5-5 at this point, a bit down for this traditionally strong program. But the Trojans will provide a challenge. Their wins have come over UAB, North Texas, South Alabama, Florida International and Navy. The losses have been to Louisiana-Lafayette, Mississippi State, Western Kentucky, Florida Atlantic and Tennessee (by just seven points).

UCA 35, Eastern Illinois 30 — The Bears have had two weeks to prepare for this nonconference game, which could affect their playoff seeding. This is a good Eastern Illinois team. The Panthers bring a 7-3 record to Conway. The wins have been by scores of 49-28 over Southern Illinois, 50-49 over Murray State, 65-15 over Austin Peay, 31-28 over Jacksonville State, 24-7 over Eastern Kentucky, 31-24 over Tennessee Tech and 39-20 over Southeast Missouri. The losses have been by scores of 52-21 to Western Michigan, 54-51 to Illinois State and 51-37 to Tennessee-Martin. Eastern Illinois has won four consecutive games.

UAPB 17, Prairie View A&M 10 — Monte Coleman’s Golden Lions struggled a bit on the road last week, but they still managed to bring home a victory from Grambling. In this final game of the regular season, UAPB hosts a Prairie View team that is 3-7 overall and 3-5 in the SWAC. The Panther victories have come against Grambling, Alcorn State and Southern University. The losses have been to Texas Southern, Lamar, Alabama A&M, North Dakota State, Jackson State, Alabama State and Mississippi Valley State. Expect Prairie View to keep it close Saturday afternoon.

Harding 37, Northwest Missouri 35 — Harding brings its ground attack to the NCAA Division II playoffs. Unfortunately, the Bisons have to go on the road to take on a traditional Division II power. The Bisons wrapped up a 9-1 regular season with a 38-7 victory over Southwestern Oklahoma in Searcy last Saturday. Fifteen Harding players had carries in that game as the Bisons finished with 358 rushing yards. Northwest Missouri brings a 9-2 record into Saturday’s game.

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