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College football: End of the regular season


I’m a believer.

Trust me, I’ve changed my evil ways.

Yes, I picked LSU to come into Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium and defeat your beloved Hogs.

Yes, even after that 17-0 shutout, I picked Ole Miss to make the trip to Fayetteville and win.

No more.

I’m picking Arkansas over Missouri on Friday.

No ifs, ands or buts.

Let’s hope it’s not the kiss of death for the Razorbacks as you eat your Thanksgiving leftovers, pray that Aunt Jane doesn’t spend another night at your house and then settle in front of the television Friday afternoon.

For too long we had to list the bad streaks — conference losing streaks, losing streaks to ranked teams, etc.

No more.

How about some positive history:

— The first back-to-back shutouts for an Arkansas team since 2002.

— The first back-to-back shutouts for an Arkansas team in conference play since 1965. That was a Razorback squad that went undefeated in the regular season.

— The first time for an Arkansas defense to shut out an Ole Miss team since 1998, Houston Nutt’s first year as head coach.

— The first SEC team with back-to-back conference shutouts since Tennessee did it in 2002.

This is, mind you, an Ole Miss team that had outscored its first 10 opponents 83-10 in the first quarter.

The score at the end of the first quarter Saturday?

Arkansas 17, Ole Miss 0.

Arkansas now has back-to-back wins over nationally ranked teams for the first time since 2011. Jonathan Williams has topped the 1,000-yard mark in rushing (1,013 yards to be exact), only the 17th time a Razorback has done that. Alex Collins, who is at 965 yards for the season, should join the exclusive fraternity on Friday.

The turnover margin for the Hogs against Ole Miss was plus five.

Does the magic continue in Columbia?

We’re 78-15 for the year. Let’s get to the final set of picks for 2014:

Arkansas 13, Missouri 10 — With or without Brandon Allen, the Arkansas defense will come through yet again. It won’t be a shutout, but it will be enough to win and spoil Tiger hopes for an SEC East crown. It will be Georgia going to Atlanta and losing to Alabama in the conference championship game. Missouri improved to 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the SEC with Saturday’s 29-21 win at Tennessee. It was the 10th consecutive road win for Mizzou. Unfortunately for the Tigers, they’re back home in Columbia where they’ve already lost to Indiana (Indiana for gosh sakes!) by a score of 31-27 and Georgia by a score of 34-0. Faurot Field still has a bit of a Big Eight (yes, I’m that old) feel. The Hogs get it done, finish the regular season with a 7-5 record and accept an invitation to play Texas in the Liberty Bowl. Tickets sell out within an hour. The temperature in Memphis at kickoff will be 28 degrees.

Minnesota-Duluth 30, Ouachita 28 — One of these days, a Great American Conference team is going to win a playoff game. The conference is only in its fourth season and is in the toughest region in NCAA Division II. Henderson and Harding lost playoff games in 2012. Henderson lost again last season. And Harding came up short again Saturday in the first round of the Division II playoffs with a 59-42 loss at the home of a traditional small college powerhouse, Pittsburg State in Kansas. Harding led 21-0 in the first half, but the 11-1 Gorillas came back to tie the score at 21-21 by halftime and then secured a victory over one of the best Harding teams ever. Now, it’s up to 10-0 Ouachita, which hosts 12-0 Minnesota-Duluth at noon in Arkadelphia on Saturday. It has been a dream season for the GAC champion Tigers, who stand a decent chance of getting the conference its first playoff win. After 10 consecutive Saturdays of football, Ouachita received a needed bye in the first round. Minnesota-Duluth is No. 2 nationally. Ouachita is No. 7. The teams are a combined 22-0. It should be quite a game at Cliff Harris Stadium on a day when the temperature will near 70.

Arkansas State 35, New Mexico State 25 — The Red Wolf defense has disappeared in back-to-back losses to Appalachian State and Texas State. In last Thursday night’s 45-27 defeat at Texas State, the Red Wolves gave up 370 yards rushing as ASU fell to 6-5 overall and 4-3 in the Sun Belt Conference. The good news is that a bad New Mexico State team comes to Jonesboro on Saturday. The bad news is that even a 7-5 record is unlikely to get this ASU team a bowl bid. At least Red Wolf fans don’t have to worry about losing their coach this year. New Mexico State won its first two games against Cal Poly and Georgia State. The Aggies have since lost nine consecutive games — 42-24 to UTEP, 38-35 to New Mexico, 63-7 to LSU, 36-28 to Georgia Southern, 41-24 to Troy, 29-17 to Idaho, 37-29 to Texas State, 44-16 to Louisiana-Lafayette and 30-17 to Louisiana-Monroe.

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