What a night in Baton Rouge.
Back when Arkansas was sitting at 1-3, who would have thought that the Razorbacks would become bowl eligible with two games still remaining in the regular season?
The 31-14 win over LSU was convincing, to say the least. This is, mind you, a Tiger team that was No. 2 in the country when Jeff Long’s committee released its first rankings of the season. Arkansas made the Tigers look like UTEP, and the vast majority of the 101,699 people in Tiger Stadium had headed back outside to their gumbo pots long before this one was over.
Arkansas outrushed LSU 299-57, had a season-high five sacks and saw Alex Collins move past Dickey Morton into third on the school’s career rushing list with 3,335 yards. Collins topped 100 yards for the eighth time this season and the 15th time in his college career.
Coach Les Miles, who is 48-6 in night games at Tiger Stadium, has only seen a team lose two consecutive games on three occasions during his tenure in Baton Rouge. The second loss each time was to Arkansas. This was the first time for the Tigers to lose back-to-back games by double digits since 1999.
We were 5-2 on the picks last week to make the record 70-21 for the season. Here are the picks for Week 12:
Arkansas 34, Mississippi State 26: This should be an interesting game on what promises to be a cold night in Fayetteville. Alabama had no problem with Mississippi State in Starkville last Saturday, beating the Bulldogs by a final score of 31-6. It marked the eighth consecutive season for Mississippi State to lose to Alabama. Derrick Henry rushed for 204 yards and two touchdowns against the Bulldogs. Collins must be licking his chops after having seen that on film. Mississippi State’s three losses have come by scores of 21-19 to LSU, 30-17 to Texas A&M and the aforementioned 31-6 loss to Alabama. The victories have been over Southern Mississippi, Northwestern State of Louisiana, Auburn, Troy, Louisiana Tech, Kentucky and Missouri. In other words, not a big-time win in the bunch; certainly nothing to compared with the Arkansas road victories over Ole Miss and LSU the past two Saturdays. We picked against the Razorbacks in both of those games. We won’t make that mistake again.
Sam Houston State 29, UCA 27 — The Bears need a victory to have a chance of getting into the FCS playoffs. UCA improved to 7-3 overall and 7-1 in the Southland Conference with a 34-31 win last Saturday night at Nicholls State. It was the seventh victory in the past eight games for the Bears as Blake Veasley rushed for 139 yards on 30 carries. McNeese State, which edged UCA in Conway last month, continues to lead the conference. Sam Houston comes into Conway with an identical 7-3 record. Just like UCA, Sam Houston lost back-to-back games to start the season (Sam Houston lost to Texas Tech and Lamar while UCA lost to Samford and Oklahoma State) and then lost later in the season to McNeese. The Bearkats’ victories have been by scores of 63-14 over Houston Baptist, 34-28 over Stephen F. Austin, 59-7 over Incarnate Word, 49-21 over Abilene Christian, 37-7 over Nicholls State, 38-24 over Texas A&M-Commerce and 59-21 over Northwestern State. The two teams appear to be evenly matched. It should be a fun game, and I plan to be there.
Henderson 24, Sioux Falls 21 — The Reddies won the Battle of the Ravine, 21-17, in front of a crowd of 9,868 at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia last Saturday afternoon. Henderson finished the regular season 10-1, and Ouachita finished 7-4. It was a well-played game with no turnovers. Neither defense gave up a long scoring play. Henderson had already wrapped up the Great American Conference title, but the win ensured that the first game of the NCAA Division II playoffs would be at home at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium. The opponent from South Dakota, the University of Sioux Falls, is a small Baptist school (smaller than Ouachita) that’s making its first appearance in the Division II playoffs since moving up from the NAIA. The Cougars are 9-2 and have won 21 of their past 24 games. The winner of Saturday’s game in Arkadelphia (noon kickoff) will play the winner of the game between Minnesota State and Emporia State. The Cougars were 36-12 with four national titles when they played in the NAIA. A year ago, they went 10-1 in the regular season and then beat Central Oklahoma in the Mineral Water Bowl. Henderson’s offense is not as good as last year. But the defense is much better. Give a slight advantage to the Reddies since Sioux Falls is the one making the long trip.
Mississippi Valley State 17, UAPB 15 — Well, somebody has to win this final game of the regular season. Both teams are 1-9. The Golden Lions fell by a final score of 49-31 to Grambling in the homecoming game at Pine Bluff last Saturday afternoon. Grambling, which is now 8-2 overall and 8-0 in the SWAC, led 35-3 at one point in the game. We’ll give a slight advantage to the home team. Both schools will be glad to see the season end.