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College football: Battle of the Ravine

Tired of what’s going on in Fayetteville?

The perfect antidote to that long-running soap opera can be found in Arkadelphia on Saturday afternoon when one of the great traditions in American sports takes place.

The Battle of the Ravine should be on every Arkansan’s bucket list. It’s the only game in college football where the visitors walk to a road game. State troopers will halt traffic Saturday morning on U.S. Highway 67, and Henderson State University players will walk across to play at Ouachita Baptist University’s Cliff Harris Stadium.

The game will kick off at 1:05 p.m. At about 4 p.m., the troopers will stop traffic again, and the Reddies will walk back home.

It looks as if the weather will be perfect for college football with sunshine and temperatures in the high 50s.

Ouachita is 10-0 and ranked No. 5 nationally in NCAA Division II.

Henderson is 9-1 and ranked No. 20 in the country.

What’s always a big game is even bigger than usual. Sports Illustrated, in fact, already has a writer and photographer in Arkadelphia.

Those who have played in these games, coached in them, covered them as journalists or watched from the stands know that there are few things quite like this game between four-year schools that are within walking distance of each other.

After all these decades, the series is tied 43-43-6.

We were a mediocre 4-3 on the picks last week (having foolishly picked the Hogs against Western Kentucky) to make the record 66-21 for the season.

Let’s get to the picks for this 12th week of the college football season:

Ouachita 29, Henderson 23 — Ouachita has already secured a share of its third consecutive Great American Conference championship. The Tigers have won 26 consecutive GAC games, a streak that dates back more than two years. Henderson would like to end that streak and, in the process, earn a share of the conference title and a spot in the NCAA Division II playoffs. With a loss, a 9-2 Reddie team is most likely headed to a minor bowl game with Ouachita and Harding being the only playoff representatives. Ouachita has won the past three games in this rivalry, but Henderson has found new weapons after having fallen to an overall record of 12-12 the previous two seasons. Ouachita will attempt to get its rushing attack going early and limit the number of Henderson possessions with long, time-consuming drives. This game will rest on Henderson’s ability to stop the Ouachita ground game.

Arkansas State 31, Coastal Carolina 22 — The 5-4 Red Wolves have had two weeks to prepare for this game and are at home in Jonesboro on Saturday afternoon. ASU has won two consecutive games, 38-14 over Texas State on Oct. 26 and 48-41 over Louisiana-Monroe on Nov. 2. Coastal Carolina is 4-5 with an upset 12-7 victory over Kansas, a 46-7 win over Norfolk State, a 62-28 victory over Massachusetts and a 36-35 win over Troy. The losses have been by scores of 30-23 to Eastern Michigan, 56-37 to Appalachian State, 31-21 to Georgia State, 30-27 in three overtimes to Georgia Southern and 48-7 to Louisiana-Lafayette.

UCA 35, Stephen F. Austin 20 — The 7-3 Bears laid a huge egg in Conway last Saturday, falling 34-0 to Southeastern Louisiana. Quarterback Cole Kelley (remember him?) accounted for 312 yards and five touchdowns against a hapless Bear defense. It was the first time a Bear team had been shut out since 1995. No UCA team had been shut out in Conway since 1986. Still, though, the Bears are tied atop the Southland Conference standings with Southeastern Louisiana, Nicholls State and Sam Houston State. The good news is that a bad Stephen F. Austin team comes to Conway this Saturday afternoon. The Lumberjacks are 2-8 overall and 2-5 in conference play. The two wins were by scores of 24-17 over Lamar and 31-24 over Incarnate Word. The losses have been by scores of 56-16 to Baylor, 37-26 to Tarleton State (a Division II school), 45-38 to Southern Utah, 48-30 to Nicholls State, 31-20 to Sam Houston State, 31-24 to Abilene Christian, 33-10 to McNeese State and 47-30 to Southeastern Louisiana.

Harding 40, Arkansas Tech 25 — The Bisons lost their season opener 16-14 to Ouachita and have since run off nine consecutive victories. Still, they have to hope for a Henderson win over Ouachita to gain a share of the conference title. Since the conference was formed in 2011, Ouachita has won five titles, Henderson has won three and Harding has won one. The Bisons posted a 35-14 victory over 1-9 Southeastern Oklahoma last week as Harding rushed for 462 yards on 57 running plays. Tech fell to 3-7 with a 31-30 loss to 2-8 East Central Oklahoma. With a victory, Harding will ensure itself a home game in the first round of the playoffs.

Southern Arkansas 39, UAM 24 — Both of these teams came to Arkadelphia and lost last Saturday. UAM fell 35-7 to Ouachita. Henderson scored in the final minute to beat Southern Arkansas by a score of 38-31. The Muleriders come in as the favorite with a 7-3 record, but the 5-5 Boll Weevils have been competitive in most games this season and are looking to secure their second consecutive winning season.

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