What a Saturday it was in college football.
In the Southeastern Conference, it was a day that saw Tennessee stay undefeated on a hail Mary.
It was a day that saw Texas A&M remain undefeated after giving up a 75-yard touchdown run to South Carolina on the first play from scrimmage.
And it was a day that saw Alabama stay undefeated with its expected win over that basketball school known as Kentucky.
Now, No. 1 Alabama rolls into Fayetteville for the 6 p.m. ESPN game Saturday against Arkansas.
It was a beautiful Saturday morning at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock last Saturday for the scrimmage against Alcorn State. The Razorbacks ended a three-game losing streak in the capital city with the 52-10 victory, outgaining Alcorn State on the ground, 353-155.
The game was historic in the sense that it was the 150th win for Arkansas at War Memorial Stadium. Arkansas teams are 150-60-4 at the stadium and 167-67-4 overall in games played in Little Rock.
I’m among those hoping that the Little Rock tradition can continue past 2018. As I watched the enthusiastic fans in the packed end zones, I realized that many of these are people who never otherwise would see the Razorbacks play.
And where else but War Memorial can you still see the Wave?
Alcorn State was a yard away from cutting the Arkansas lead to 10 points at halftime, but a fumbled shotgun snap kept it 24-7 at the break, and the Hogs cruised home from there.
The real story of the day in the SEC came between the hedges in Athens, Ga.
Tennessee (5-0, 2-0) rallied from a double-digit deficit for the fourth time this season. The Volunteers went ahead for the first time in the game when they recovered a Georgia fumble in the end zone with 2:56 remaining. The Bulldogs (3-2, 1-2) went back ahead on a 47-yard touchdown pass with just 10 seconds left.
An excessive celebration penalty forced Georgia to kick off from its 20, and a long return left Tennessee just 43 yards away from the promised land. Joshua Dobbs was able to get the ball in the end zone from there, and Tennessee had perhaps its most amazing comeback since the Stoerner Stumble at Knoxville in 1999 (I still get a headache thinking about the end of that game, which spurred the Vols to a national championship).
So it is that ESPN GameDay will be at the Texas A&M-Tennessee contest rather than in Fayetteville.
So it is that CBS will cover Texas A&M and Tennessee at 2:30 p.m. rather than Arkansas and Alabama.
An evening game on ESPN, though, is still good exposure for the Arkansas program. The top evening crew of Joe Tessitore, Todd Blackledge and Holly Rowe will be calling the Hogs for the third time this year. They earlier called the win over TCU and the loss to Texas A&M. Arkansas will be back in a 6 p.m. ESPN slot for its game against Ole Miss.
We were 6-1 on the picks last week, making the season record 32-10. Here are the picks for Week 6:
Alabama 30, Arkansas 22 — Alabama was sluggish early in its 34-6 win against Kentucky. The score was tied 3-3 at the end of the first quarter. Don’t expect the Tide to be sluggish in Fayetteville this Saturday night. That said, I have the sense that Arkansas will hang around, especially if Austin Allen has a stellar game at quarterback. For the first time since the Razorbacks joined the SEC in 1992, an Arkansas quarterback has passed for multiple touchdowns in each of the first five games. Granted, Allen has yet to play against a defense like Alabama’s defense. But he’s due for a breakout game if (and this is a big “if” considering the beating he took against Texas A&M) his offensive line will give him some protection.
Georgia Southern 33, Arkansas State 29 — Poor Red Wolves. They started the season 0-4, including a loss at home against UCA. Now, they have to play a home game on a Wednesday night when the Baptists in northeast Arkansas are supposed to be in church. College football should never be played on a Wednesday night, though that’s a subject for another day. Georgia Southern comes to Jonesboro with a 3-1 record and the nation’s fourth-ranked rushing offense. Using the triple option, Georgia Southern averages 317.8 rushing yards per game. There’s great tradition at the school. Georgia Southern won six FCS national titles and is 19-8 since moving into the FBS in 2014. The Arkansas State defense has given up an average of 239.3 rushing yards per game in losses of 31-10 to Toledo, 51-14 to Auburn, 34-20 to Utah State and 28-23 to UCA. The Georgia Southern wins have come by scores of 54-0 over Savannah State, 24-9 over the South Alabama team that beat Mississippi State to open the season and 23-21 over Louisiana-Monroe. The one loss was at Western Michigan, 49-31.
Harding 25, Henderson 24 — It’s 5-0 Henderson hosting 5-0 Harding for the Great American Conference lead in Arkadelphia on Saturday afternoon. Harding coasted through the month of September, outscoring its first four opponents 193-35. In a well-played football game by both teams on the first day of October, things became more difficult. Harding had to come from behind midway through the fourth quarter to defeat Ouachita in Searcy on Saturday night, 24-20. Ouachita had knocked off nationally ranked Bison teams in each of the previous two seasons. With its starting quarterback and best running back out due to injuries, Henderson struggled in a 27-20 victory over 2-3 Arkansas Tech. Both injured players are expected to return for this week’s game. Henderson now has a 24-game road winning streak overall and a 25-0 road record against GAC teams since the conference was formed in 2011. But the Bisons knocked the Reddies off in Arkadelphia two years ago, so they know they can win at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium. This has the makings of a classic.
Ouachita 39, Arkansas Tech 34 — Even in defeat, the 3-2 Tigers played their best game of the season at Searcy against Harding. Ouachita’s offense managed to score 17 points in the first half against what was the top-ranked defense in NCAA Division II coming into the game. The Tigers have proved tough to beat at Cliff Harris Stadium since the stadium opened in 2014 (when Ouachita went undefeated in the regular season). The only losses there have come in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs in 2014 and to Henderson, the GAC champion, in last year’s Battle of the Ravine. Tech is feeling better about itself after keeping it close against Henderson. Expect this one to go down to the wire.
Southern Arkansas 23, Oklahoma Baptist 19 — The Muleriders are off to a 4-1 start with victories of 21-17 over Southwestern Oklahoma, 33-14 over Northwestern Oklahoma, 28-21 over Arkansas Tech and 37-20 over Southern Nazarene. The loss was to Harding, 35-14. Oklahoma Baptist, which struggled last year as it made the move from the NAIA to NCAA Division II, is 2-3. The victories have both been close ones — a 19-15 upset of Arkansas Tech and a 36-34 victory over East Central Oklahoma in triple overtime. The losses have been by scores of 38-7 to Harding, 42-22 to Southeastern Oklahoma and 31-27 to UAM. It should be a win, but it won’t be easy for Southern Arkansas, which needs a victory to stay one game behind the Harding-Henderson winner.
UAM 40, Southern Nazarene 30 — Nazarene is right where most people expected it to be at this point in the season: Winless. Its five losses have come by scores of 46-0 to Arkansas Tech, 63-7 to Harding, 23-6 to East Central Oklahoma, 45-14 to Southeastern Oklahoma and 37-20 to Southern Arkansas. In addition to its victory Saturday against Oklahoma Baptist, the Boll Weevils won an earlier game against Southwestern Oklahoma, 35-28. UAM’s three losses have been by scores of 59-56 to Northwestern Oklahoma, 38-31 to Arkansas Tech and 57-7 to Harding. The Weevils should even their record at 3-3 on Saturday.