At least we know the Razorbacks won’t lose this weekend.
The open date comes at a good time. Last week’s 45-31 loss to Vanderbilt dropped the Arkansas program to perhaps its lowest point in my lifetime. The Razorbacks went 3-9 in 2013 in Bret Bielema’s first season. Arkansas now finds itself 2-7 with games left against LSU, Mississippi State and Missouri. If the Hogs lose all of those games, it will be the first 10-loss season in school history.
Only 41,800 people showed up on a beautiful fall day to watch the Vanderbilt debacle. With Arkansas missing senior linebacker Dre Greenlaw most of the game due to an ankle injury, Vanderbilt’s Ke’Shawn Vaughn was able to rush for 172 yards and three touchdowns. The Commodores had no turnovers and turned two interceptions into 14 points.
Arkansas still leads the overall series against Vanderbilt (7-3) but trails 2-1 in games played at Fayetteville. Vanderbilt won there by a score of 28-24 in 2005 and lost by a score of 49-14 in 2010.
About the only bright spot for Arkansas last Saturday was Connor Limpert’s 55-yard field goal, the longest by a Razorback kicker since Kendall Trainor was kicking back in 1988.
On the same day that Arkansas lost to Vanderbilt, the state’s other three NCAA Division I programs (Arkansas State, Central Arkansas and UAPB) also lost.
There’s quality college football being played in Arkansas this season, but most of it is at the NCAA Division II level. The state has three of the Top 25 teams in Division 11 — Ouachita (9-0) is No. 4, Southern Arkansas (8-1) is No. 20 and Harding (7-2) is No. 24.
One of the biggest games of the year in Division II will kick off at 1 p.m. Saturday at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia when Ouachita hosts SAU. The past three games in this series have been decided by a combined 10 points. Ouachita won 45-42 last year at El Dorado on a touchdown pass with 33 seconds remaining. Ouachita won 40-37 in 2016 in four overtimes at Cliff Harris Stadium. In 2015, SAU won 32-28 at El Dorado.
This game should be along those same lines. With the Razorbacks open and the weather forecast calling for sunny skies and temperatures in the 60s, a lot of people may get their first taste of Great American Conference football this Saturday. Prices are low and the traffic isn’t bad. I would highly recommend the road trip to Arkadelphia.
The record was 6-2 on the picks last week (I foolishly picked Arkansas, and no one can figure out this Arkansas Tech team), making the record 60-17 for the season.
Here are the picks for this Saturday’s games:
Arkansas State 31, South Alabama 26 — The amount of grumbling on social media from Red Wolf fans surprises me. It’s a sign that they’ve become spoiled in recent years. While the quality of the stadium keeps improving in Jonesboro, the quality of the football being played in that stadium has gone down this year. The Red Wolves fell to 4-4 overall and just 1-3 in Sun Belt Conference play with a 47-43 loss at Louisiana-Lafayette last Saturday. ASU trailed by 10 points at the half but took a 43-40 lead with 5:48 remaining. The home team then drove 55 yards in 11 plays and scored on a two-yard run with 1:18 to go. The talk of “Hugh Freeze back to Jonesboro” (yes, it’s out there) will really heat up if the Red Wolves lose to South Alabama in Jonesboro this Saturday afternoon. I don’t expect that to happen. Steve Campbell left UCA at the end of last season to take on a rebuilding project in Mobile. Campbell is a heck of a coach, but the rebuilding process will take time. His team is 2-6 overall and 0-4 in road games. The South Alabama wins have come by scores of 41-31 over Texas State and 45-7 over Alabama State. The losses have been by scores of 30-26 to Louisiana Tech, 55-13 to Oklahoma State, 52-35 to Memphis, 52-7 to Appalachian State, 48-13 to Georgia Southern and 38-17 to Troy.
UCA 29, Lamar 22 — The Bears fell to 5-3 overall and 4-2 in Southland Conference play with a 23-21 loss at McNeese State. The Cowboys (6-2, 5-1) are now alone in first place in the conference. UCA trailed 20-7 in the second quarter but fought back to take a 21-20 lead on a 39-yard Carlos Blackman run with 13 seconds left in the third quarter. The Cowboys went back ahead on a 24-yard field goal with 7:27 left, and then the McNeese defense made sure that lead stood. The Bears might be able to get back on the winning track in Conway on Saturday night against a Lamar team that’s 4-4 overall and 3-3 in conference play. The wins have been by scores of 70-7 over Kentucky Christian, 27-21 over Incarnate Word, 41-23 over Sam Houston State and 24-17 over Stephen F. Austin. The losses have come by scores of 77-0 to Texas Tech, 49-48 to Northwestern State of Louisiana, 30-24 Southeastern Louisiana and 50-27 to Nicholls State.
Alabama A&M 30, UAPB 20 — Poor UAPB. For a second consecutive week, the Golden Lions led in the fourth quarter and then lost in overtime. The previous week it had been a 48-47 loss to Mississippi Valley State in two overtimes. This time it was a 45-38 loss at Grambling in a single overtime. A Tiger field goal with 46 seconds left in the fourth quarter left forced overtime. There were 11 lead changes in the game as UAPB fell to 1-7 overall and 0-4 in SWAC play. Alabama A&M rolls into Pine Bluff for Saturday afternoon’s homecoming game. The visitors are 4-4. The victories have been by scores of 37-0 over Miles College, 21-16 over Jackson State, 42-21 over Texas Southern and 27-10 over Alabama State. The losses have been by scores of 25-20 to North Alabama, 63-7 to Cincinnati, 29-27 to Southern University and 42-21 to Texas Southern.
Ouachita 27, Southern Arkansas 24 — Ouachita has won 14 consecutive conference games and is 42-10 in Great American Conference play since the start of the 2014 season. The Tigers moved to 9-0 in 2018 with a 35-10 victory over UAM (4-5) last Saturday afternoon in Monticello. Ouachita led 28-0 at halftime and then coasted in the second half. The Tigers have outscored their past three opponents 134-31 and have scored more than 30 points in six of their nine games. And that’s with a redshirt freshman at quarterback. Southern Arkansas had an even better first half last Saturday. The Muleriders jumped out to a 34-0 lead over Henderson (5-4) in the Murphy USA Classic at El Dorado and ended up winning 34-14. SAU outgained Henderson 492-163, led 28-10 in first downs and dominated time of possession 42:39 to 17:21. Mulerider quarterback Barrett Renner was 21 of 31 passing for 296 yards and one touchdown. If Ouachita wins, the Tigers will have secured their fourth undisputed conference title in the eight years of the GAC. If the Muleriders win, SAU and Ouachita will be tied for the conference lead with one game to go.
Henderson 34, UAM 32 — UAM had won three consecutive games prior to the loss to Ouachita. Henderson had won four consecutive games before losing to SAU. Give the Reddies the slight edge in what should be a close game since this one is at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia.
Harding 40, Southeastern Oklahoma 21 — Southeastern Oklahoma (5-4) was having a successful season until the wheels came off the past two weeks. First came a loss at Henderson on a 40-yard Reddie field goal with five seconds remaining in the game. That was followed by a 10-6 loss at home in Durant to a struggling Arkansas Tech team. Harding is trying to get to 9-2 and sneak into the playoffs. The Bisons rolled to a 49-7 victory last Saturday against East Central Oklahoma (2-7). Harding had 564 yards rushing and 35 first downs in that game. Bison quarterback Preston Paden only threw two passes.
Arkansas Tech 35, East Central Oklahoma 33 — This Arkansas Tech team, which is 3-6 with two games remaining in the season, is difficult to figure out. It loses to a Southwestern Oklahoma team that it should have beaten and then comes back the next week to defeat a Southeastern Oklahoma squad that it had no business beating. Tech should defeat East Central Oklahoma at home in Russellville on Saturday afternoon. After all, East Central is tied for last place in the conference. That doesn’t mean the Wonder Boys will, though.