Last week’s record was 9-0.
Frankly, I wish that had not been the case.
I picked Alabama last week, but I thought the Razorbacks would play well. They didn’t.
Yes, it’s a nonconference game Saturday at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, but it’s pivotal. With a loss to Texas A&M, this fragile squad will start doubting itself and could be headed to an 8-4 season at best.
With a victory, 10-2 still sounds possible. Not easy, but possible.
A friend — a former sportswriter who has watched Arkansas football for decades — sent me this earlier in the week: “Conventional wisdom: Petrino got outcoached. Not necessarily. I think Nick Saban and the Bama staff were very well prepared for Petrino’s offense — for example, the way Alabama played the crossing route in the red zone and the fake field goal. Clearly, Saban saw something about the Hogs’ special teams that he thought he could exploit.
“But I don’t know whether or not Tyler Wilson missed some opportunities. My guess is that he did because Petrino was hopping mad at him after almost every series. It reminded me of Petrino’s experience with Casey Dick, who managed to put up decent numbers but was forever checking down to D.J. Williams instead of throwing the ball downfield. I would imagine that Petrino’s offense is quite complicated and takes a quarterback some serious game time to learn how to make the right decisions. Wilson may not be there yet.”
Here’s what we have seen the past three seasons: Petrino’s teams tend to get better as the year goes along.
That’s why I’m picking Arkansas this week.
Am I going with my head?
Or am I going with my heart?
I also hated the fact that the Gulf South Conference teams from Mississippi, Alabama and Georgia went 5-0 last week against the Division II teams from Arkansas. Sure, I had picked the GSC straight down the line, but I was hoping for better from Henderson, Harding, UAM, Arkansas Tech and Southern Arkansas.
Again this week, there are five Arkansas schools playing GSC opponents, including a battle of Division II Top 25 teams as No. 6 Delta State hosts No. 25 Ouachita on Saturday night in Cleveland, Miss.
We don’t think the Arkansas schools will go 0-5 again this week against the GSC.
So who from the state wins?
We’re 26-7 on the season. Here are the picks for Week 5:
Arkansas 35, Texas A&M 29 — You know how ugly the stats were last week — 17 yards rushing on 19 carries, etc., etc. Texas A&M is good, but the Aggies aren’t to be confused with the Tide. This is, after all, an Alabama team that won its Southeastern Conference opener for a 20th consecutive time; an Alabama team that is 4-0 against Arkansas in the Petrino era; an Alabama team that has outscored the Hogs 146-55 in the past four games. The Aggies have a bigger hangover than the Hogs after blowing that 17-point halftime lead at home to Oklahoma State. You want hope for the Arkansas passing game? Consider the fact that A&M gave up 438 yards through the air to the Cowboys, an OSU school record. Arkansas gains more than 400 yards through the air and wins a shootout Saturday as former Razorback Jerry Jones smiles from his private box.
Arkansas State 38, Western Kentucky 28 — The 2-2 Red Wolves open Sun Belt Conference play Saturday afternoon in Bowling Green, Ky., against a Western Kentucky team that’s 0-3. The Red Wolves ran up a lot of points against UCA in Jonesboro last Saturday night, and this marks a good time for Hugh Freeze’s squad to build on that momentum. The Hilltoppers have lost 14-3 to Kentucky, 40-14 to Navy and 44-16 to Indiana State. The losses to Navy and Indiana State came in Bowling Green. In other words, Western Kentucky is not very good. ASU is 2-2-1 against Western Kentucky through the years and 1-0-1 in games played at Bowling Green.
UCA 24, Stephen F. Austin 21 — This is certainly a game that could go either way as a struggling pair of 1-3 teams square off on the purple-and-gray turf in Conway. UCA started the season well, beating Henderson at home and then taking Louisiana Tech to overtime on the road before falling. The Bears haven’t been competitive the past two weeks in blowout road losses to Sam Houston State and Arkansas State. Stephen F. Austin started the season by beating tiny McMurry, 82-6, but has since lost by scores of 34-23 to Northern Iowa, 48-0 to Baylor and 35-26 to Texas State. We’ll give the Bears a slight advantage since they’re playing at home for the first time in a month.
Alabama A&M 17, UAPB 14 — Since that embarrassing loss to Langston in the Delta Classic at War Memorial Stadium, the Golden Lions have run off three consecutive victories with triumphs over Alcorn State, Prairie View A&M and Clark Atlanta. Could the Golden Lions go to 3-0 in the SWAC on Saturday when they travel to Huntsville, Ala., to take on Alabama A&M? Of course they could. But we’re giving a small homefield advantage to a 2-2 Alabama A&M team that started the season 0-2 with losses of 21-20 to Hampton and 21-6 to Southern and has since come back with victories of 21-6 over Tuskegee and 20-14 over Grambling.
Ouachita 37, Delta State 34 — This is one of the games of the week in NCAA Division II. It also may be the classic example of going with my heart instead of my head. Hear me out. Ouachita is 3-0 with victories over East Central Oklahoma, UAM and Texas A&M-Commerce. Delta State is 4-1. Its only loss was by a point on the road to Northwestern State from NCAA Division IAA, 24-23. Delta State is ranked No. 6 nationally in the American Football Coaches Association Top 25. Ouachita broke into the poll this week at No. 25. The Statesmen have given up more than 30 points the past two weeks in wins of 47-32 over Arkansas Tech and 34-31 over Henderson. Ouachita, meanwhile, has scored more than 30 points in each of its three games — 31 against East Central, 38 against UAM and 39 against Texas A&M-Commerce. So it’s safe to assume the Tigers will score plenty of points. Here’s betting (hoping?) that this is the week Delta State is edged out. It’s not as if the Tigers haven’t shown they can play with the Statesmen in recent years. Ouachita demolished Delta State two years ago, 38-14. And a horrible call (which the GSC commissioner admitted to two days after the game) cost Ouachita the victory last year. The scoreboard showed Delta State a 33-27 winner in what should have been a 34-33 Tiger victory.
Henderson 29, West Georgia 23 — Henderson is 1-3, but the Reddies looked much better last week in the loss to Delta State following a change at quarterback. West Georgia is 2-1, but Henderson has dominated this series, having won five straight and six of the past seven games against the Wolves. The Reddies go on the road and bring a big win back to Arkansas.
Central Missouri 42, Arkansas Tech 30 — The Mules of Central Missouri are 3-1 and ranked 19th nationally in Division II. The lone loss was 23-6 to Missouri Western. The wins have come by scores of 42-24 over Missouri Southern, 45-38 over Emporia State and 54-30 over Truman State. Tech is 1-3, its only win having come against Southwest Baptist of Bolivar, Mo., on the road. With the game being played at Central Missouri, this just doesn’t appear to be the week the Wonder Boys get well.
Harding 31, West Alabama 27 — The Bisons are 2-2 and now must make the long trip to Livingston, Ala., to take on the 3-1 West Alabama Tigers. West Alabama struggled to beat Arkansas Tech last week, 17-12. The Tigers have started 3-1 for the third year in a row, but they haven’t been 4-1 since 1991. Harding leads this series, 9-7. The Bisons’ ground game will make the difference in this one, which you can label a mild upset.
North Alabama 51, Southern Arkansas 29 — Terry Bowden brings a team to Magnolia that’s ranked No. 2 in Division II. The 4-0 Lions should have no problem with a Mulerider team that’s 1-3. North Alabama has won nine consecutive games against Southern Arkansas.
Valdosta State 41, UAM 22 — Valdosta State brings the team ranked No. 5 in Division II to Drew County to take on a 2-2 UAM club that won its first two games but has now dropped back-to-back contests to Ouachita and West Georgia. Valdosta is 4-0 and has won eight of the nine games against UAM through the years. The Blazers are 4-0 in games played at Monticello. Valdosta is seeking its first 5-0 start since 2007.