College football: Battle of the Ravine

It’s the week of the Battle of the Ravine, one of the great college football rivalries (at any level) in America.

As I always point out to out-of-state reporters who call to ask questions about the rivalry, it’s the only college contest in which the road team doesn’t fly or bus to a game. It walks.

I’ve already done my annual story on the game here on the Southern Fried blog. So I won’t repeat that.

Here’s what I will say: Attending a Battle of the Ravine should be on every Arkansan’s bucket list. As I write this, the weather forecast for Arkadelphia on Saturday shows sunny skies and a high of 60. That’s what I call football weather.

And here’s the beauty of it for Razorback fans: The kickoff at Cliff Harris Stadium is at 1 p.m. The game should end by 4 p.m., giving most Arkansans time to be home for the Arkansas-LSU kickoff on ESPN at 6:15 p.m. So treat yourself to a fun day of college football: Ouachita vs. Henderson on a beautiful November afternoon followed by the Hogs’ game in Baton Rouge on television that night.

I finished my broadcast of Ouachita’s 58-7 victory over Southern Nazarene in Oklahoma City on Saturday afternoon in time to hear the final seven minutes of the fourth quarter and the overtime of the Razorback victory on satellite radio. Sirius/XM used the Ole Miss broadcast since the Rebels were the home team, and it was interesting to hear the wild finish from that perspective.

Here’s how Rebel analyst Harry Harrison described a fourth-down play that will live in Razorback history for as long as any of us are breathing: “That was luck to the Nth degree.”

Agreed.

But strange things can happen in college football (you might ask Alabama head coach Nick Saban about the final play against Auburn a couple of years ago). Arkansas still had to score the touchdown, and the Razorbacks still had to execute the two-point conversion.

The question now is whether the Hogs can come back down to earth after a truly epic football game and spring another road upset, this time in Baton Rouge.

It goes without saying that Tiger Stadium on a Saturday night isn’t the easiest place to win a football game. With back-to-back Southeastern Conference victories in overtime for the Hogs, and the fact that LSU looked vulnerable at Tuscaloosa, there’s now reason for hope for Arkansas.

We were 6-4 on the picks last week, our worst week of the season. However, the overall record is still a good 65-19.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 11 of the college football season:

LSU 30, Arkansas 28 — Yes, I expect Arkansas to play well. Alabama certainly looked liked a team primed to win the national championship in its 30-16 victory over LSU in Tuscaloosa on Saturday night. The Tide’s Derrick Henry moved ahead of LSU’s Leonard Fournette in the Heisman watch with 210 yards on the ground and three touchdowns. Fournette came into the game as the leading rusher at the FBS level but was held to 31 yards on 19 carries. Expect him to gain a lot more yards than that this week against Arkansas. Yet if Brandon Allen came have another performance like the one he had in Oxford (33 of 45 passing for 442 yards and six touchdowns), Arkansas will be in this game until the end. In its 122 years of football, Arkansas has won only five games in which it allowed 45 or more points. All five were overtime contests. Two of the five have come this season. Could we see another such game in Baton Rouge? It’s possible. It’s more likely, however, that this one will end in regulation, providing entertaining Saturday evening viewing for the ESPN audience.

Henderson 29, Ouachita 24 — There have been five football seasons in the short history of the Great American Conference, counting this one. And the championship trophy still has yet to leave Arkadelphia. Henderson has wrapped up the 2015 title to go along with the championships it won in 2012 and 2013. Ouachita won conference championships in 2011 and 2014. It has been an amazing run for the Arkadelphia schools (Henderson had undefeated regular seasons in 2012 and 2013, and Ouachita was undefeated last year in the regular season). Both teams are good again this year. Henderson comes into Saturday’s game at 9-1, and Ouachita is 7-3. The Reddies struggled on the road Saturday against a 2-8 Oklahoma Baptist team but did enough in the end to win by eight, 22-14. The Reddies then got a gift when Southwestern Oklahoma defeated second-place Arkansas Tech in Russellville, 28-14, to drop the Wonder Boys to 7-3 and ensure Henderson the crown regardless of what happens Saturday afternoon at Cliff Harris Stadium. Ouachita, meanwhile, warmed up for the game with that 58-7 victory over 0-10 Southern Nazarene. Having the conference’s last-place team on the schedule in the 10th game allowed the Tigers to rest most of their starters for a half coming into the Battle of the Ravine. Henderson leads NCAA Division II in interceptions with 24. Its defense is better than last year, but its offense isn’t nearly as good as it was under the leadership of quarterback Kevin Rodgers in 2012, 2013 and 2014. Ouachita’s young defense has given up big plays at inopportune times throughout the season. Blown coverages in the secondary have been commonplace. Advantage Henderson on defense. Advantage Ouachita on offense. Both teams have strong kicking games.

Arkansas State 35, Louisiana Monroe 22 — The Red Wolves went on the road to Boone, N.C., last Thursday and came home with an impressive 40-27 victory over an Appalachian State team that had entered the contest with a 7-1 overall record. ASU is now alone atop the Sun Belt Conference at 5-0 (6-3 overall), followed by Appalachian State at 4-1, Georgia Southern at 4-1 and Louisiana-Lafayette at 3-1. ASU has won five consecutive games. The Red Wolves trailed in the second half of three of those games. ASU had a 39-point fourth quarter against South Alabama, a 21-point fourth quarter against Georgia State and a 17-point third quarter against Appalachian State. The Red Wolves pay a visit to north Louisiana this Saturday to take on a weak Louisiana-Monroe team. The Warhawks are 1-8 and have lost seven consecutive games. The only victory was by a score of 47-0 over an FCS team, Nicholls State. The losses have been by scores of 51-14 to Georgia, 34-0 to Alabama, 51-31 to Georgia Southern, 34-24 to Tulsa, 59-14 to Appalachian State, 27-13 to Idaho, 30-24 to Louisiana-Lafayette and 51-14 to Troy.

UCA 31, Nicholls State 19 — The Bears moved to 6-3 overall and 6-1 in Southland Conference play with a 36-24 victory in Conway on Saturday night over a Stephen F. Austin team coached by former UCA head coach Clint Conque and quarterbacked by his son, Little Rock Catholic graduate Zach Conque. Stephen F. Austin fell to 3-4 in conference and 3-6 overall. UCA trailed 24-17 late in the third quarter before scoring the game’s final 19 points. Conque, who coached the Bears from 2000-13, was on the visitors’ sideline at Estes Stadium for the first time. McNeese State remains alone atop the Southland Conference standings at 8-0 following a 27-10 victory over Sam Houston State. UCA travels to far south Louisiana this Saturday to take on a Nicholls State team that’s only 2-5 in conference and 2-7 overall. The two victories were by scores of 38-17 over Houston Baptist and 30-28 over Lamar. The losses have been by scores of 47-0 to Louisiana-Monroe, 20-10 to Incarnate Word, 48-0 to Colorado, 37-7 to McNeese, 28-24 to Stephen F. Austin, 37-7 to Sam Houston State and 37-21 to Northwestern State. The Bears should be able to take care of business in Thibodaux on Saturday night and remain in the hunt for an FCS playoff spot.

Grambling 40, UAPB 20 — The long season just keeps getting longer for UAPB, which is 1-8 overall and 0-7 in the SWAC following a 57-24 loss to Southern University in Pine Bluff on Saturday. Southern jumped out to a 21-0 lead in the first quarter and never looked back. The Jaguars led 57-8 after three quarters before clearing the bench. The Grambling team that comes to Pine Bluff on Saturday afternoon leads the SWAC at 7-0 and is 7-2 overall. After starting the season with nonconference losses to California and Bethune-Cookman, the Tigers have run off seven consecutive conference victories by scores of 34-10 over Alabama State, 70-54 over Prairie View A&M, 59-27 over Jackson State, 37-14 over Alabama A&M, 35-34 over Alcorn State, 49-14 over Mississippi Valley State and 41-15 over Texas Southern. There’s no reason to believe that UAPB can be competitive in this game.

Harding 34, Arkansas Tech 27 — Harding and Arkansas Tech are both 7-3. The winner has a chance to be invited to serve as the GAC representative in the Live United Bowl at Texarkana on Dec. 5. Tech has exceeded the expectations its fans had early in the season, while Harding has fallen off since having started the season 4-0 and being ranked as high as No. 9 in NCAA Division II. The Bisons trailed 3-7 Northwestern Oklahoma by nine points in the fourth quarter at Searcy on Saturday before getting three touchdowns on the ground from Michael Latu in the final seven minutes to post a 42-30 victory. Tech, meanwhile, suffered that disappointing loss to Southwestern Oklahoma in Russellville. This should be a close game between two of the conference’s upper-tier teams.

Southern Arkansas 18, UAM 16 — A disappointing season for UAM comes to a merciful end on Saturday. The Boll Weevils are 1-9, having lost Saturday by a final score of 37-0 to 5-5 Southeastern Oklahoma. Southern Arkansas improved its record to 6-4 with a 35-26 victory over East Central Oklahoma, which is also now 6-4.

 

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