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College football: Week 12

The Dallas Cowboys are glad they have Dak Prescott.

The Mississippi State Bulldogs wish they still did.

The Bulldogs have struggled to a 4-6 record this season. They need to beat Arkansas in Starkville on Saturday night and then turn around and down Ole Miss in the Egg Bowl just to qualify for a low-level bowl game. Mississippi State has been to bowl games the past six seasons.

Mississippi State’s stunning 21-20 loss to South Alabama from the Sun Belt Conference back on Sept. 3 was a sign of things to come.

The Bulldogs did manage to win their Southeastern Conference opener against a weak South Carolina club, 27-14. That was followed by a 23-20 loss to LSU, a 47-35 nonconference victory over Massachusetts, a 38-14 loss to Auburn, a 28-21 overtime loss to BYU, a 40-38 loss to Kentucky, a 56-41 nonconference victory over Samford, a 35-28 upset victory over Texas A&M and a 51-3 loss to Alabama.

The win over the Aggies (now fading quickly following that fourth-quarter collapse against Ole Miss at College Station last Saturday) did prove that Mississippi State can still be tough at Starkville. And Arkansas teams often struggle in the land of cowbells.

I was 6-1 on the picks last week, missing only the Battle of the Ravine pick (and I’m glad I did predict that one incorrectly). That makes the record 66-23 for the season.

Let’s get to the predictions for Week 12:

Arkansas 30, Mississippi State 28 — I’ve been writing about how inconsistent this Arkansas team is. But I’m about to change my mind and say instead that the Razorbacks are pretty consistent — consistently bad against SEC West opponents. Yes, there was the close win at home over Ole Miss. Arkansas was blown out by its other four SEC West foes — Texas A&M, Alabama, Auburn and LSU. The Razorbacks fell to 6-4 overall and 2-4 in the SEC with Saturday’s 38-10 loss to LSU. The Tigers outgained the Hogs 547-291. Arkansas gave up 390 yards rushing while its offense generated only 81 yards on the ground. There was nothing competitive about this game as LSU jumped to a 21-0 lead. Derrius Guice rushed for 252 yards and two touchdowns for the Bayou Bengals. That’s the second most yards ever by an LSU running back. Guice’s 96-yard touchdown run was the longest play from scrimmage ever at LSU. It should be a competitive game this Saturday in Starkville between two teams that find themselves at the bottom of the SEC West.

Troy 24, Arkansas State 21 — It’s the game of the year in the Sun Belt Conference, and it’s on national television Thursday night. Arkansas State went 0-4 in nonconference play but has run off five consecutive conference victories. The Red Wolves moved to 5-0 in the Sun Belt on Saturday afternoon with a 41-22 conquest of New Mexico State in Jonesboro. Troy is No. 25 this week in The Associated Press poll, the first time for the conference to have a ranked team. Troy won or shared Sun Belt titles each season from 2006-10 before falling on hard times. Veteran head coach Larry Blakeney retired, and Neal Brown took over, instituting a pass-happy spread offense. Brown’s team went 4-8 last year in his first season as head coach. The Trojans are 8-1 overall and 5-0 in conference play thus far this season. The one loss was at Clemson, and it was a close one — 30-24. The victories have been by scores of 57-17 over Austin Peay, 37-31 over Southern Mississippi, 52-6 over New Mexico State, 34-13 over Idaho, 31-21 over Georgia State, 28-21 over South Alabama, 52-31 over Massachusetts and 28-24 over Appalachian State. The slight edge goes to the home team.

Sam Houston State 39, UCA 29 — It’s the game of the year thus far in the FCS. Sam Houston State is ranked No. 1 nationally with a record of 10-0 overall and 8-0 in the Southland Conference. UCA is ranked No. 12 with a record of 9-1 overall and 8-0 in the Southland Conference. The Bears escaped with a 31-24 victory over Nicholls State last Saturday afternoon in Conway. It was close throughout as UCA led 10-7 at halftime and 17-14 at the end of the third quarter. Nicholls led 21-17 early in the fourth quarter. The Bears will have to play much better to have a chance on Saturday afternoon in Huntsville. The Bearkats’ 10 victories have come by scores of 59-21 over Panhandle State, 44-31 over Lamar, 52-16 over Houston Baptist, 63-28 over Stephen F. Austin, 63-48 over Incarnate Word, 48-21 over Abilene Christian, 38-21 over Nicholls State, 66-17 over Texas Southern, 56-43 over McNeese State and 48-16 over Northwestern State.

Prairie View A&M 31, UAPB 10 — UAPB lost its seventh consecutive game Saturday to fall to 1-9 overall and 1-7 in the SWAC. The loss this time was to Texas Southern in Houston by a final score of 27-10. The long, long season comes to a merciful end in Pine Bluff this Saturday afternoon against a Prairie View A&M team that comes to town with a 6-4 record overall and a 6-2 mark in SWAC play. The losses have been by scores of 67-0 to Texas A&M, 36-16 to Grambling, 65-44 to Rice and 44-34 to Southern University. The wins have been by scores of 29-25 over Texas Southern, 41-20 over Alabama A&M, 56-21 over Mississippi Valley State, 24-17 over Alabama State, 28-14 over Jackson State and 31-27 over Alcorn State. The Golden Lions likely won’t provide much of a challenge Saturday.

Harding 34, Central Missouri 33 — Harding wrapped up its first 11-0 regular season in school history with a 42-7 victory over 6-5 Arkansas Tech in Searcy on Saturday afternoon. The Bisons, the leading rushing team in NCAA Division II, had 425 yards on the ground against the Wonder Boys. Harding’s defense limited Tech to 85 total yards. Ronnie Huckeba is retiring as Harding’s head coach at the end of this season and would like to extend his career by at least another week. Harding will host a playoff game for the first time beginning at 1 p.m. Saturday against 9-2 Central Missouri State. Harding has made the playoffs twice before, but lost on the road in the first round in 2012 and 2014. Central Missouri finished third in the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletic Association with a 9-2 record. The losses came by scores of 37-31 in two overtimes to Emporia State and 42-17 to No. 1 Northwest Missouri State. Central Missouri won its final six games and only one of them was close — 36-16 over Nebraska-Kearney, 56-7 over Missouri Southern, 29-27 over Washburn, 48-28 over Central Oklahoma, 59-21 over Northeastern Oklahoma and 35-7 over Lindenwood. Harding has only had one close game this season– a 24-20 win over Ouachita in Searcy on Oct. 1. Harding trailed in the fourth quarter of that game. The other 10 victories were by 15 or more points.

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