The Bret Bielema era comes to an end in Fayetteville on Friday afternoon.
There will be far more empty seats than seats that are filled. Razorback fans began “speaking with their feet” earlier this year, letting the University of Arkansas Board of Trustees know they were ready for a change in direction. Only about 35,000 people showed up for last Saturday’s 28-21 loss to Mississippi State.
The board listened.
The game was a microcosm of the five-year Bielema era. It was the 12th time under Bielema that an Arkansas team has lost after entering the fourth quarter with the lead. It dropped the Razorbacks to 29-33 overall and 11-28 in the Southeastern Conference since Bielema became the head coach.
Mississippi State goes into Thursday night’s Egg Bowl with records of 8-3 overall and 4-3 in the SEC. Arkansas goes into that contrived Battle Line Rivalry with records of 4-7 overall and 1-6 in the SEC.
Mississippi State led 348-221 in total yards and outrushed the Razorbacks 195-97. The last time a Mississippi State team had overcome a 14-point deficit was against, yes, Arkansas in 2008.
With the second losing season in five years already in the books, here’s something for you to consider if you watch Friday’s game: The most points ever allowed by an Arkansas football team were 404 points last season. If Missouri scores 19 or more points Friday afternoon, that record will be broken.
We were 5-1 on the picks last week, bringing the season record to 75-19. It should have been 6-0 since we had vowed to never again pick UAPB. But then we noticed that Texas Southern had only one victory, the game was at War Memorial Stadium, etc. So we went with the home team. Of course, the Golden Lions lost, 24-10, to finish the season 2-9 overall and 1-6 in the SWAC. UAPB ended the year with seven consecutive losses, and on Monday head coach Monte Coleman lost his job. It will be interesting to see if a new coach can revive that program.
Here are the picks for the three games this week that involve teams from Arkansas:
Missouri 30, Arkansas 28 — If they play a football game and no one sees it, is it still a football game? We’ll at least have the TV on as background noise for what I expect to be a close game. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the Razorbacks win one last game for the coach. Missouri, though, is on a roll. The Tigers won their fifth consecutive game last Saturday with a 45-17 victory over Vanderbilt. Missouri is now 6-5 overall and 3-4 in the SEC following an awful start. The Tigers won their opener 72-43 over outmanned Missouri State and then lost five consecutive games — 31-13 to South Carolina, 35-3 to Purdue, 51-14 to Auburn, 40-34 to Kentucky and 53-28 to Georgia. The five consecutive victories have come by scores of 68-21 over Idaho, 52-12 over Connecticut, 45-16 over Florida, 50-17 over Tennessee and 45-17 over Vanderbilt.
Arkansas State 35, Louisiana-Monroe 25 — Arkansas State is still tied for the lead in the Sun Belt Conference following a 30-12 victory in Jonesboro last Saturday against Texas State. The Red Wolves are 6-3 overall and 5-1 in conference play. They’re bowl eligible for a seventh consecutive season. With heavy winds negating the passing game last Saturday, ASU ran the ball 61 times for 164 yards and led in time of possession by an astounding 23 minutes. The game marked the most rushing plays for an ASU team since 2007. The Red Wolves, still smarting from the loss at South Alabama two weeks ago, will take nothing for granted as they go on the road this Saturday to play a 4-6 Louisiana-Monroe team. ULM’s four victories have come by scores of 56-50 over Louisiana-Lafayette, 51-43 over Coastal Carolina, 45-27 over Texas State and 52-45 over Appalachian State. The losses have been by scores of 37-29 to Memphis, 28-17 to Southern Mississippi, 47-37 to Georgia State, 33-23 to South Alabama, 31-23 to Idaho and 42-14 to Auburn.
Ashland 29, Harding 27 — Harding is one of the great stories in small college football in 2017. The Bisons graduated 18 players off a team that went 11-0 during the regular season in 2016 and then won two NCAA Division II playoff games. Harding started this season 0-3. The Bisons have now won nine consecutive games, including last week’s 27-24 win at the University of Indianapolis in the first round of the playoffs. Harding only attempted one pass on a stormy afternoon and didn’t complete that. The Bisons, who lead Division II in rushing, outrushed their opponent 349-171. Indianapolis had come into the game with an 11-0 record. Harding plays Saturday at Ashland of Ohio, which is 11-1. Ashland’s only defeat was a 26-23 loss to Indiana of Pennsylvania (you read that correctly) in the season opener. The 11 consecutive victories since then have come by scores of 47-21 over Ohio Dominican, 42-14 over Northwood, 20-3 over Ferris State, 38-0 over Davenport, 38-13 over Northern Michigan, 48-0 over Michigan Tech, 38-24 over Tiffin, 30-10 over Wayne State, 34-31 over Grand Valley State, 31-19 over Saginaw Valley State and 21-18 in the first round of the playoffs over the defending national champions from Northwest Missouri State.