Never have so many Arkansas college football teams played games on a Saturday in December.
And there’s a lot on the line.
In Jonesboro on Saturday night, Arkansas State and Troy will square off with at least a share of the Sun Belt Conference title at stake. ESPN2 will televise the game nationally.
In Conway on Saturday afternoon, UCA will host New Hampshire in the second round of the FCS playoffs. This is a Bear team with a legitimate shot at making it to the national championship game.
Harding has advanced to the third round of the NCAA Division II playoffs for a second consecutive year and will travel to Michigan to take on Ferris State.
Arkansas Tech will battle Pittsburg State of Kansas in Texarkana in the annual Live United Bowl on Saturday afternoon.
We were 2-1 on the picks last week. We correctly called Missouri over Arkansas in the final game of the Bret Bielema era and Arkansas State over Louisiana-Monroe. We missed on Harding, though, which won its 10th consecutive game after starting the season 0-3.
The season record is now 77-20.
Here are the picks for this Saturday’s games:
Troy 41, Arkansas State 39 — This should be a highly entertaining game. If Appalachian State defeats Louisiana-Lafayette on Saturday afternoon in Boone, N.C., the winner of the ASU-Troy game will share the conference title with the Mountaineers. If Appalachian State loses, the ASU-Troy winner will stand alone atop the conference. The Red Wolves had a poor defensive outing last Saturday in Monroe, La., but the offense couldn’t be stopped in a 67-50 victory over Louisiana-Monroe. It was the most points ever allowed in a win by an ASU team. Red Wolf quarterback Justice Hansen set school records for passing yards (520) and total yards (550). The Red Wolves are now 7-3 overall and 6-1 in conference play. Troy is 9-2 overall and is also 6-1 in Sun Belt play. The Trojans attracted national attention back on Sept. 30 when they went to Baton Rouge and knocked off LSU, 24-21. The other victories have come by scores of 34-7 over Alabama State, 27-24 over New Mexico State, 22-17 over Akron, 34-10 over Georgia State, 38-16 over Georgia Southern, 24-21 over Idaho, 42-17 over Coastal Carolina and 62-9 over Texas State. The two losses were by scores of 24-13 to Boise State and 19-8 to a South Alabama team that also upset ASU.
UCA 35, New Hampshire 24 — The Bears, who finished the regular season 10-1 overall and 9-0 in the Southland Conference, had a week off thanks to a first-round playoff bye. They’re the No. 4 seed in the FCS playoffs. New Hampshire is 8-4 and advanced with a 14-0 win Saturday over Central Connecticut. The New Hampshire losses were by scores of 51-26 to Holy Cross, 38-24 to Stony Brook, 21-0 to James Madison and 15-0 to Albany. The seven regular-season victories were by scores of 24-23 over Maine, 22-12 over Georgia Southern, 28-14 over Rhode Island, 45-17 over Bryant, 40-17 over Towson, 35-16 over William & Mary and 16-6 over Elon.
Harding 29, Ferris State 27 — The Bisons are the hottest team in small college football right now. They didn’t win the Great American Conference championship (Ouachita did), but they earned a spot in the playoffs and then knocked off the University of Indianapolis by a final score of 27-24 in the first round. UIndy had come into the game with an 11-0 record. The Bisons went on the road again for the second round against an Ashland squad that was 11-1 following a first-round victory over the defending national champions from Northwest Missouri State. Harding posted a 34-24 victory as the Bisons rushed for 295 yards and passed for 126 yards. Ferris State finished the regular season 9-1 and then came from behind in the fourth quarter to edge Ouachita by a final score of 24-19 in the first round of the playoffs. In the second round, the Bulldogs went on the road to Kansas to take on the team ranked first in NCAA Super Region 3 and won 31-21 over Fort Hays State. Ferris hasn’t seen anything like Harding’s double-slot offense. The Bisons have an excellent chance to advance to the national semifinals.
Arkansas Tech 30, Pittsburg State 28 — Arkansas Tech is 8-3, and Pittsburg State is 7-4. Tech won its first four games of the season over Southern Arkansas, Henderson, Oklahoma Baptist and Southern Nazarene to move to No. 11 nationally in the Division II rankings. A 35-31 loss to Ouachita in Russellville on Sept. 30 started a skid that also saw the Wonder Boys get upset by one point the following week at UAM. That was followed by victories over Southwestern Oklahoma, Northwestern Oklahoma, East Central Oklahoma and Southeastern Oklahoma. A 24-17 win by Harding in Russellville on Nov. 11 denied the Wonder Boys a share of the GAC title. Tech has had almost a month to prepare for the game against the Gorillas, long a Division II power.