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College football: Week 14 (the gray edition)

I realize I’m past the age of 50.

I realize I’m a traditionalist.

I realize that I probably don’t understand what young athletes want today.

Just consider this a sincere plea from a native Arkansan who has always loved my state’s college football teams.

To whom it may concern: We want our Razorbacks back in 2014.

Our Razorbacks don’t wear gray uniforms.

And they certainly don’t wear gray helmets.

Our Razorbacks wear red helmets. They also wear red jerseys at home.

There. I said it.

I feel better.

In the blog post last week, I picked the Razorbacks and asked “why not?” I expected the game to be close and relatively low scoring, calling it Arkansas 24, Mississippi State 21.

It was close, and it was low scoring by today’s standards. But this Arkansas team just doesn’t know how to win, does it? So we have the first eight-game losing streak in University of Arkansas history. This team has already tied the record for most losses in a season. The Hogs went 2-8 in 1950, 2-8 in 1952, 3-8 in 1990 and 4-8 in 2012. A loss at LSU on Friday will result in the most losses in school history.

It also was the first time for Mississippi State to beat Arkansas in consecutive years. Arkansas is 15-6-1 against Mississippi State since joining the Southeastern Conference and had been 9-0-1 against MSU in games played in Arkansas in the SEC era. These two schools like to play overtime games. Arkansas won overtime games at Starkville in 1996, 2000 and 2010. There was also a 13-13 tie in 1993.

Silver linings?

Well, Arkansas’ record at War Memorial Stadium is still a stellar 149-48-5. Let’s not blame it on War Memorial.

Meanwhile, the Razorbacks started seven true freshmen on Saturday. So a lot of young players are getting experience.

Despite the Razorbacks’ awful season, college football remains fun. After 13 consecutive Saturdays attending college football games, I hope to hibernate this week and watch a whole lot of football. Yes, I’ll have the Egg Bowl on Thanksgiving night while eating leftovers (I love cold cornbread dressing). Yes, I’ll watch the Arkansas-LSU game on Friday while eating more leftovers.

Saturday will be especially fun as I check in on traditional in-state rivalries such as Florida State at Florida, Georgia at Georgia Tech and Clemson at South Carolina while polishing off the leftovers (there’s no better man’s holiday than Thanksgiving since it combines football and food).

Then there’s the Iron Bowl, which might just become as big a rivalry as the Battle of the Ravine if those folks over in Alabama will continue working at it.

I had the privilege of attending four Iron Bowls back when they were all played at Birmingham’s Legion Field. It’s a special rivalry, and the stakes have never been bigger than this year.

Auburn has had two weeks to prepare for the game. Alabama, meanwhile, warmed up with a 49-0 victory over Chattanooga as A.J. McCarron became the school’s winningest quarterback. Think about that. Think of all the great quarterbacks who have played at Alabama through the decades. McCarron now has more wins than any of them with a 36-2 record as a starter.

A few other notes from the SEC:

— Steve Spurrier might be getting old, but he’s still getting it done at South Carolina. The Gamecocks have won 17 consecutive games at home. Saturday’s 70-10 victory over Coastal Carolina marked Spurrier’s 75th victory in his nine seasons as South Carolina’s head coach. Before his arrival, South Carolina fans (among the most loyal in college football) were not used to winning consistently.

— Tennessee can’t seem to get off rock bottom. Tennessee now has had four consecutive losing seasons, the first time that has happened since 1903-06. Gen. Neyland must be rolling in his grave. Vanderbilt beat Tennessee for a second consecutive year for the first time since 1925-26. Maybe they should consider hiring James Franklin at Knoxville.

— Why does Kentucky even bother to field a football team? The Wildcats have now lost 15 consecutive SEC games.

— The shocker of the day last Saturday was Georgia Southern 26, Florida 20. Georgia Southern had come in as a four-touchdown underdog. Florida had entered the game 7-0 against FCS teams with an average margin of victory of 45 points in those seven games. Given the success of recent decades, it’s hard to comprehend that Florida is 4-7, has lost six consecutive games and will have its first losing season since 1979. Will Muschamp will make someone a good defensive coordinator next year.

— Missouri is for real. Missouri’s game against Texas A&M is going to be another fun contest to watch on Saturday as I reheat the sweet potatoes. After missing four games due to a shoulder injury, James Franklin is back at quarterback. The Tigers had no problem ending Ole Miss’ four-game winning streak as Mizzou improved to 10-1 overall and 6-1 in the SEC. Now Missouri is one win away from playing in the SEC championship game at Atlanta.

— LSU put together the game it had been looking for all season as Texas A&M fell to the Tigers in Baton Rouge by a score of 34-10. Here’s how Johnny Manziel put it: “We just got punched in the mouth tonight, and it wasn’t fun.” Manziel passed for 224 yards and a touchdown, but he was sacked twice and intercepted twice while completing just 16 of his 41 passes. LSU ended A&M’s 13-game streak of scoring 40 or more points. The game saw the lowest Aggie point and yardage totals since Manziel began starting at quarterback.

We should have quit picking games a week earlier as our percentage took a small hit with a 2-3 record last Saturday.

We’re 75-18 on the season.

As noted, we picked Arkansas to win a close game.

We also picked Henderson to win by four. Instead, the Reddies lost by five in the NCAA Division II playoffs.

We figured Sam Houston State would defeat UCA in Conway. It was good to see the Bears go out on a winning note to end a season that didn’t live up to expectations.

We correctly picked ASU to defeat winless Georgia State, but it was much more difficult than expected. The Red Wolves had to stop a two-point conversion attempt and then recover an onside kick with two minutes left to hang on 35-33 in Jonesboro on Saturday afternoon. ASU trailed 17-7 at halftime and was outgained 432 yards to 290 yards for the game. The Red Wolves were just one of 12 on third-down attempts. In the end, four turnovers doomed 0-11 Georgia State as Arkansas State improved its record to 7-4 overall and 5-1 in the Sun Belt Conference.

UCA finished the year at 7-5 overall and 4-3 in the Southland Conference with its 49-31 upset of a Sam Houston team that had come in ranked ninth in the FCS. UCA forced six turnovers. Junior quarterback Ryan Howard was 24 of 36 passing for the Bears for 349 yards and four touchdowns in his sixth start since replacing the injured Wynrick Smothers. Sophomore quarterback Taylor Reed, the son of El Dorado High School head football coach Scott Reed, also threw a touchdown pass for UCA.

The other prediction we got correct (in addition to picking ASU to win) was picking UAPB to lose. In 2012, UAPB won the SWAC championship. In 2013, the Golden Lions went 2-9 overall and 2-7 in conference play. The season ended in Texas on a cold Saturday afternoon with a 43-23 loss to Prairie View A&M. Prairie View had 597 yards of offense and scored the game’s first 22 points.

For a second consecutive season, Henderson went undefeated in the regular season and then lost its first game in the NCAA Division II playoffs. Last year it was Missouri Western that beat the Reddies. This year it was St. Cloud State out of Minnesota that won at Carpenter-Haygood Stadium in Arkadelphia. St. Cloud escaped with a 40-35 victory as the 11-1 Reddies committed four costly turnovers. The Reddies are 21-2 during the past two seasons with both losses coming in the playoffs.

The bad news for Great American Conference opponents of the Reddies is that Henderson quarterback Kevin Rodgers still has another year. He passed for 567 yards on Saturday and now has 10,076 career passing yards.

Let’s hope that Harding and Ouachita can pick up victories in their bowl games on Dec. 7 over Lone Star Conference teams to earn the GAC some respect.

Here are the picks for this week:

LSU 42, Arkansas 17 — Good riddance to the 2013 Razorback season.

Western Kentucky 35, Arkansas State 31 — We’re hoping the Red Wolves will take down Bobby Petrino’s Hilltoppers in Bowling Green on Saturday afternoon, but we’re giving the advantage to the home team. Western Kentucky is 7-4 overall and 3-3 in Sun Belt Conference play. The Hilltoppers have won three consecutive games. The seven victories were over Kentucky, Morgan State, Navy, Louisiana-Monroe, Georgia State, Army and Texas State. The losses came against Tennessee, South Alabama, Louisiana-Lafayette and Troy.

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