College football: Week 3

A 31-21 victory.

You know what one former Razorback head football coach would say: “All wins are precious.”

Or to quote another former Razorback coach: “Smile!”

Yes, I know. It was Samford, not Stanford.

No one ever said things would come easily in 2013.

There were some highlights:

— Two 100-yard rushers in each of the first two games for the first time in school history.

— Alex Collins becoming the first Arkansas freshman to top 100 rushing yards in his first two games while also inventing the War Memorial Leap (take that, Lambeau Leap).

— The longest field goal by a Razorback kicker since 1988. Zach Hocker put it through from 53 yards, the longest since Kendall Trainor’s 58-yard field goal against Miami a quarter of a century ago.

— 333 rushing yards as the Razorbacks topped the 300-yard mark for the first time since 2010.

The Hogs are now 149-54-2 at War Memorial Stadium. Not bad for road games, huh?

There was a Liberty Bowl representative at the game. If Arkansas can get to 6-6, that representative said he would promise an invitation to the bowl game and a high of at least 27 degrees on New Year’s Eve in Memphis.

We were 7-2 on the picks last week and now stand at 10-2 on the year. Two of the Great American Conference teams — Southern Arkansas University and Harding University — let us down on Thursday night of last week. Both squads had been picked to finish near the top of the GAC rankings as they came off outstanding 2012 seasons. Harding was 9-2 last year, and SAU was 8-3. But Harding fell to Southwestern Oklahoma, 27-23, and Southern Arkansas fell to Southeastern Oklahoma, 56-50. We had predicted that both of the Arkansas schools would go on the road and win close games. Instead, they lost close games.

On to the picks for Week 3:

Arkansas 39, Southern Mississippi 19 — Southern Miss has a 3-1 record in games played in the state of Arkansas. All of those games, however, were against Arkansas State. Nebraska coasted to a 56-13 win over USM last week. The Golden Eagles have the longest losing streak in the country at 14. It goes to 15 on Saturday at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in what should turn out to be an easier victory than the one against Samford.

Arkansas State 27, Troy 24 — ESPNU telecasts its Thursday night game of the week from Jonesboro this evening, and it should be a good one. ASU rolled over UAPB in its season opener, but nothing went right a week later on the Plains as the Red Wolves lost to former head coach Gus Malzahn and his Auburn Tigers, 38-9. You know it’s going to be a bad day when you’re penalized on the first play for wearing the wrong-colored jersey. That anthracite is nothing but trouble, right Hog fans? ASU had just 150 rushing yards against Auburn as Malzahn went to 2-0 as a head coach in the Southeastern Conference. This is Troy’s first road trip of the season. The Trojans downed UAB by a score of 34-31 in Week 1 and cruised past a weak Savannah State team a week later, 66-3. This should be an interesting game as one of these teams takes the early Sun Belt Conference lead. We’ll give the Red Wolves a slight — very slight — advantage because they’re home.

UCA 31, Tennessee-Martin 30 — UCA, playing before the third-largest crowd ever to see a Bear team in action, led Colorado going into the fourth quarter last Saturday. But the Buffaloes scored the final 21 points to win, 38-24. Bear quarterback Wynrick Smothers was 33 of 55 passing for 280 yards but threw three interceptions for the first time in his college career. This is Martin’s first home game. The Skyhawks won at Chattanooga on Aug. 29 and then lost last Saturday at Boise State, 63-14. UCA leads the all-time series 7-4, but Martin has improved in recent years. Since 2006 under head coach Jason Simpson, the Skyhawks have gone 46-35 and posted three seasons of at least eight victories. They have a 35-20 record against Ohio Valley Conference opponents. This won’t be an easy game for UCA.

Alabama State 17, UAPB 14 — UAPB, the defending SWAC champion, has looked awful in blowout road losses at Arkansas State and McNeese State to start the season. It could be worse. Grambling head coach Doug Williams was fired after just two games. In the preseason, Alabama State and UAPB were selected as the favorites to win their divisions in the SWAC. Alabama State also enters Saturday’s game in Pine Bluff with an 0-2 record after losses to Jack Crowe’s Jacksonville State squad, 24-22, and to Jackson State, 30-23. The margins have been much closer for Alabama State, though. The visitors must be considered the favorite coming into the game. UAPB defeated Alabama State last year, 24-21, in a Thursday night affair on ESPNU.

Southeastern Oklahoma 47, UAM 34 — The Boll Weevils lost for the 11th consecutive time last week, falling 46-22 to East Central Oklahoma. Meanwhile, Southeastern Oklahoma was upsetting Southern Arkansas in that wild 56-50 game at Durant. The Boll Weevils are home in Monticello, but it’s going to be difficult to outscore Southeastern Oklahoma. Expect lots of offense and very little defense.

Southwestern Oklahoma 40, Arkansas Tech 28 — It’s hard to remember when anyone other than Steve Mullins was the head coach at Arkansas Tech. Mullins was the top Wonder Boy for 16 seasons before deciding at the end of last year to concentrate on his duties as athletic director. The Raymond Monica era at Tech began with a 38-10 win over Northwestern Oklahoma, which is among the weaker teams in the GAC. It becomes much more difficult in Russellville on Saturday when Southwestern Oklahoma comes to town, fresh off its upset victory over Harding.

Harding 48, Northwestern Oklahoma 27 — The Bisons lost most of the defensive starters off last year’s 9-2 team that advanced to the NCAA Division II playoffs. That loss of defensive talent showed in last week’s defeat at the hands of Southwestern Oklahoma. On Saturday night in Searcy, the Bisons host a struggling Northwestern Oklahoma program. A win should provide a confidence boost for Harding.

Henderson 70, McKendree 23 — The Reddies moved into the Division II Top 10 after opening the season with an 82-10 victory over Southern Nazarene. This week, the Reddies are back in Arkadelphia for a nonconference game against McKendree from Illinois, which was 3-7 last year. Henderson went on the road and picked up a 47-24 win at McKendree in 2012. The margin should be even more lopsided this time. Against Southern Nazarene, Reddie quarterback Kevin Rodgers had 468 passing yards and ran his record to 15-2 as Henderson’s starting quarterback. Henderson has now won 13 consecutive regular-season games.

Ouachita 40, Southern Nazarene 12 — Ouachita is the last college team in Arkansas to begin the 2013 season. Ouachita is also the only college program in the state to have posted five consecutive winning seasons. The Tigers, who return 10 starters off last year’s defense, go on the road to take on the Southern Nazarene team that absorbed that whipping from Henderson a week ago. Three of the Tigers’ first four games are in Oklahoma.

Southern Arkansas 31, East Central Oklahoma 29 — This is the game of the week in the GAC. Southern Arkansas is angry after losing at Southeastern Oklahoma, and East Central is feeling good after its win over UAM. These are two of the best five teams in the conference, and it should be a close game Saturday night in Magnolia. We’ll give the Muleriders the advantage in front of the home crowd.

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