What a great week this is for college football games across the state of Arkansas.
Arkansas and South Carolina will play in Fayetteville in a key SEC contest that will go a long way toward determining what quality of bowl games these teams attend.
Arkansas State hosts Louisiana-Lafayette in Jonesboro on Saturday afternoon in a Sun Belt Conference game.
A UAPB team that is much improved over last year’s squad plays Grambling in the Delta Classic at Little Rock’s War Memorial Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
UCA hosts my wife’s alma mater, Texas State, in Conway on Saturday night in a Southland Conference game.
Ouachita hosts Henderson on Saturday afternoon in the Battle of the Ravine, one of the great rivalry games in all of college football. Where else can the visiting team walk to a road game? State troopers will stop traffic on U.S. Highway 67 in Arkadelphia, and Henderson’s players and coaches will walk across to Ouachita’s A.U. Williams Field. After the game, the Reddies will trudge back across the highway to their own dressing room.
Arkansas Tech goes to Searcy to play Harding on Saturday afternoon with a lot on the line. If the Wonder Boys win, they’re likely to be in the NCAA Division II playoffs.
In El Dorado, meanwhile, the first Boomtown Classic in that city’s great old Memorial Stadium will pit the Muleriders of Southern Arkansas against the Boll Weevils of UAM.
That’s seven decent college football games in seven Arkansas cities on the same day — Fayetteville, Jonesboro, Little Rock, Conway, Arkadelphia, Searcy and El Dorado. You really should make it out to a college football game this weekend.
We were 7-2 with our picks last week, making us 45-23 for the season. Let’s get to this week’s selections:
Arkansas 31, South Carolina 29 — I hesitate to get back on the Razorback bandwagon after being burned when I picked the Hogs against both Georgia and Ole Miss. As we have seen, neither Georgia nor Ole Miss is having a vintage year. Oh well. We’ll put on our cardinal-colored glasses and join all the rest of you fanatics in picking the Razorbacks in a game that easily could go the other way. Both teams have lost to Alabama. Both teams have lost to Georgia. South Carolina also was whipped on Saturday night in Knoxville. The wins for the 6-3 Gamecocks have come against North Carolina State, Florida Atlantic, Ole Miss, South Carolina State, Kentucky and Vanderbilt. Those six schools aren’t setting the world on fire this season. The Gamecocks’ win over Ole Miss looked like a signature victory at the time. In retrospect, it wasn’t.
Arkansas State 24, Louisiana-Lafayette 21 — With a great quarterback and veteran running back, I keep thinking the 2-5 Red Wolves will put it together. They player larger schools such as Iowa and Louisville well on the road but can’t get over the hump. Louisiana-Lafayette is 4-4. The wins were over Southern University, Kansas State (a shocker at the time), North Texas and Western Kentucky. The losses have been to LSU, Nebraska, Florida Atlantic and Florida International. Losses the past two weeks to the Sun Belt’s two south Florida schools tell me that this is not the same Louisiana-Lafayette team that beat Kansas State back on Sept. 12. The conference wins over North Texas and Western Kentucky were against bad teams. North Texas is 2-6. Western Kentucky is 0-8, including a loss to UCA.
Grambling 46, UAPB 35 — After their loss to Southern University in Pine Bluff last Saturday, the Golden Lions find themselves at 2-2 in the SWAC and 4-3 overall. Grambling is 4-1 in the SWAC and 5-3 overall. Grambling started the season with a loss to South Carolina State and followed that up with wins over Northwestern State of Louisiana and Jackson State. That was followed by losses to Oklahoma State and Prairie View A&M. The Tigers have since reeled off three consecutive victories — 41-20 over Alabama A&M, 23-12 over Alabama State and 50-7 over Mississippi Valley State. It’s nice to see this game in War Memorial Stadium for a third straight season. The great tradition of the SWAC needs to be displayed annually in Little Rock.
UCA 37, Texas State 32 — The Bears are 5-3 overall and 2-2 in the Southland Conference with losses of five, four and three points. Texas State is 3-1 in the conference and also 5-3 overall. McNeese State, Stephen F. Austin, Southeastern Louisiana and Texas State all find themselves tied atop the Southland standings. The Bobcats have posted wins over Angelo State, Texas Southern, Nicholls State, Northwestern State and Stephen F. Austin. The losses were to TCU, Southern Utah and Southeastern Louisiana. It should be an exciting game in Conway. We’ll go with the home team in a game that could easily go either way.
Ouachita 27, Henderson 23 — There is nothing quite like a Battle of the Ravine. It’s the most unique college rivalry in the country. We really think ESPN should have its “Game Day” crew there to watch the visitors cross the highway. If you have never been to one of these games, you owe it to yourself to be in Arkadelphia on Saturday for the 1:30 p.m. kickoff. This is hard to pick because it’s truly one of those games where you can throw the records out.
Arkansas Tech 45, Harding 30 — The Wonder Boys and their stellar quarterback, Nick Graziano, smell the playoffs. This is a must win for them, and they should get the job done in Searcy.
UAM 28, Southern Arkansas 24 — On Thanksgiving Day 1933, the schools that are now known as UAM and SAU battled in El Dorado in a game dubbed the Battle of the Goat. A goat named Nanny was to be awarded to the winner, but the game ended in a 0-0 tie. You no longer have to worry about ties in college football. The winner of this year’s Boomtown Classic will receive a trophy. Alumni events have been scheduled by both schools, and a concert will be held afterward at the El Dorado Municipal Auditorium. We love the idea of a college football game being played in El Dorado. SAU upset a very good UAM team a year ago in Steve Quinn’s final game as the Mulerider head coach. The Boll Weevils have not lived up to expectations this year, but we expect them to revenge last year’s loss to end the season with a 5-6 record.
Looks like you have hit the nail on the head this week Rex, I think the Tigers will get back on the winning track Saturday. Chris Babb called me yesterday afternoon and asked me to speak to the football club today. I warned him that I did not have enough time to “cut down” my talk on such short notice. He may need a hook to pry me from the podium. Thoughts of the game and the deep traditions of the two schools send chills down my spine as I know they do for you. I was fortunate enough to have played in three of the contests and coached over a 30 year period for both schools, as you know.. I can’t think of anyone else who played for one school and coached on both staffs. Ken Wheaton coached for both schools but did not play for either. You may know of another case, if you do know of such an example I would like to know who it was. Today I plan to mention the greats from both schools of whom I have been fortunte enough to have known personally, your Dad and uncle Lowell will be mentioned along with Ike Sharp, Otis Turner, Jiggs Ramsey, Cliff Harris, Duke Wells, Jim Mack Sawyer, Roy Green, Earnie Rhonel, etc, etc. G.B.
Coach Baker: I wish I could be in Arkadelphia today to hear your talk on the Battle of the Ravine. You bring a unique perspective to this great college football rivalry, having played at Ouachita and having coached on both sides of the ravine.
By the way, as David Sharp and I drove to your old stomping grounds in Alabama to call a game on the radio Saturday, we figured out we have now seen more than 700 Ouachita football games between the two of us. That’s a lot of college football — Rex.
This game is about more than records, it’s about heart and soul of a team. Ouachita can have a losing season and feel a certain amount of pride with a win over the much-despised Reddies. GO TIGERS!
Having watched Henderson State lose to Harding, I think your OBU prediction is safe.
Bob: No prediction is safe in the Gulf South Conference this year other than the one that says North Alabama will win. It has been a crazy season — Rex
The Reddies only salvation may rest with the fact that you picked OBU Rex!!! I am speaking at the Blanket Ceremony tonight for the senior Reddies. I went through that ceremony 39 years ago. Regardless of who wins or loses, after the game is over the “divided families” will make peace and one will tell the other, “Just wait until next year”. Have a safe trip to Arkadelphia tomorrow.
Rex, It was a great day to be a OUACHITA TIGER! And the honoring of the 1949 team just added to it. It was very emotional! I hope you will write about those former Tigers being there as honorary captains. I hate to see the season end!
Jane: What a great day to be in Arkadelphia. Perfect weather. Capacity crowd. Exciting, high-scoring game. I had a tear in my eye when I saw your dad had made it down for the 60th reunion of the 1949 team.
There is nothing quite like a Battle of the Ravine.
Bobby, at least I finally picked a Ouachita game correctly. I do hate to see the season end — Rex