It’s the most anticipated weekend of the season for Razorback fans — the open date.
The Hog faithful can go about their business this Saturday without the frustration of following a team that has won just three Southeastern Conference games since the start of the 2013 season.
As predicted in this space last week, Arkansas hung around for three quarters in Tuscaloosa on Saturday. A Jake Coker to Calvin Ridley touchdown pass that covered 81 yards combined with a failed Arkansas fake punt attempt to propel the Tide to a 13-point victory.
Alabama outgained the Hogs, 396-220.
Well, Alabama’s lowest previous point total this season had been 34 points.
The Tide ended Alex Collins’ streak of three 150-yard rushing games. Collins finished with just 26 yards on 12 carries. Alabama outrushed Arkansas, 134-44.
We must post the predictions early this week since Arkansas State has one of those strange Tuesday night games. The Red Wolves have another one next week.
College football games should NOT be played on Tuesday nights.
Yes, I’m a traditionalist.
Last Saturday in the Great American Conference started with five teams tied for the conference lead. Henderson, Arkansas Tech, Harding, Ouachita and East Central Oklahoma all had 4-1 records.
Now there are just two teams tied for the conference lead — Henderson and Tech.
Henderson beat Harding in Searcy.
Tech beat Ouachita in Russellville.
East Central lost at Southwestern Oklahoma.
We were 4-2 for the week, making the record 38-11 for the season.
Let’s get to the picks for Week 7 of the college football season:
Arkansas State 30, South Alabama 29 — The two teams appear evenly matched for this Tuesday night game. Arkansas State opened the season with losses to USC and Missouri. A 30-point loss to Toledo was sandwiched between victories over bad Missouri State and Idaho teams. So the Red Wolves are 2-3 overall. South Alabama is 3-2 with wins of 33-23 over Gardner-Webb, 34-27 over San Diego State and 24-18 over Troy. The losses came by scores of 48-9 to Nebraska and 63-13 to North Carolina. We’ll give a slight edge to the Red Wolves since quarterback Fredi Knighten, who hasn’t played since the third quarter of the loss to Missouri on Sept. 12, is expected to start tonight.
Alabama State 17, UAPB 15 — In a Thursday night game at Pine Bluff, a 2-4 Alabama State team takes on a 1-4 UAPB squad. Both schools obviously need a victory. Alabama State’s wins have been by scores of 45-15 over Mississippi Valley State and 41-23 over Texas Southern. The losses have come to Tennessee State, Alcorn State, Grambling State and Southern University. UAPB has struggled all season with losses to South Carolina State, Texas Southern, Alabama A&M and Alcorn State. The only victory has come against an NCAA Division II team, Morehouse College, and even that wasn’t easy.
McNeese State 28, UCA 18 — There will be a Southland Conference showdown in Conway on Saturday night as UCA (3-2, 3-0) hosts McNeese State (5-0, 3-0). McNeese likely wouldn’t be undefeated had its opener at LSU not been called off due to persistent thunderstorms. The Cowboys have been impressive since then with victories of 43-6 over Incarnate Word, 28-14 over Stephen F. Austin, 37-0 over Mississippi College, 37-7 over Nicholls and 21-7 over Southeastern Louisiana. UCA stayed undefeated in conference play last Saturday afternoon with a 43-7 victory at Houston Baptist. In his second start at quarterback for the Bears, Hayden Hildebrand threw four touchdown passes and had 274 yards through the air. He’s filling in for senior Taylor Reed from El Dorado, who has a shoulder injury.
Ouachita 32, Southern Arkansas 31 — This is a tossup. Both teams are 4-2 and in need of a victory to stay alive in the Great American Conference race. And the game is at a neutral location in El Dorado as the annual Murphy USA Classic is played at old Memorial Stadium. Southern Arkansas posted a 38-20 victory last Saturday over Oklahoma Baptist. The Muleriders had 378 yards of offense and limited Oklahoma Baptist to 151 yards. Ouachita was coming off an emotional victory over Harding (which was ranked No. 12 nationally at the time) but laid an egg in Russellville. An Arkansas Tech freshman named Bryan Allen from Forrest City rushed for 279 yards against the Tigers. It was Tech’s first win over Ouachita since 2007 and its first victory over a nationally ranked opponent (Ouachita came in at No. 20) since the 2009 Division II playoffs.
Henderson 39, UAM 13 — Based on their schedule, the 5-1 Reddies have a good chance of coming into the Battle of the Ravine at 9-1 with a share of the GAC title already secured. Henderson scored with less than eight minutes remaining to come from behind and beat Harding in Searcy, 22-17. The road game will be much easier this Saturday afternoon. UAM started the season 0-5 but got homecoming relief in Monticello last Saturday in the form of a Southern Nazarene team that has now lost 28 consecutive games. UAM won by a score of 51-10 as quarterback Hunter Leppert passed for 398 yards. Reality will return for Leppert this week against a stout Henderson defense.
Harding 27, Southeastern Oklahoma 24 — Harding started the year 4-0 and was climbing each week in the national rankings before running into the teams from Arkadelphia, Ouachita and Henderson. Now the 4-2 Bisons are fighting to stay alive in the GAC race and must go on the road to play a decent Southeastern Oklahoma team. Southeastern is 3-3 following a surprise 31-16 loss at Northwestern Oklahoma last Saturday.
East Central Oklahoma 19, Arkansas Tech 16 — Tech has been the surprise of the conference thus far, rolling to a 5-1 record with the only defeat being at Henderson. The Wonder Boys’ defense ranks alongside Henderson as one of the two best defenses in the GAC. And quarterback Arsenio Favor, a transfer from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, has given the offense a spark that was missing last year. The Wonder Boys, though, are due a letdown following their homecoming victory over Ouachita. East Central was upset at Southwestern Oklahoma, 38-31, but remains in the top tier of GAC teams.