A win is a win, right?
Attendance was announced at 61,055 at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium last Saturday afternoon, and you can bet that a majority of those fans left disappointed with Arkansas’ performance in a 20-13 victory over Portland State.
“There’s no such thing as a bad win,” said Razorback head coach Chad Morris.
OK, coach, we’ll play along. We won’t use the adjective “bad.”
Let’s just say that a Southeastern Conference team playing at home should never find itself hanging on for dear life at the end against an FCS squad.
It was the fifth consecutive season opener for a Razorback team to win. Arkansas finished the game with 204 yards on the ground. Rakeem Boyd gained 114 of those rushing yards, his fourth time as a Razorback to rush for more than 100 yards.
There were several bright spots on defense. An Arkansas team had three interceptions for the first time since 2014, and the Hogs also had six sacks.
It was the offense that caused the most headaches. Arkansas had the ball in Portland State territory on 11 of 12 possessions but had a hard time finishing drives with touchdowns.
And things are going to get much tougher this week with the SEC opener in Oxford against Ole Miss.
We were 2-2 on the picks last week.
We figured UCA would keep it close against Western Kentucky, but we didn’t climb out on that limb and predict the Bears to win outright. And we perhaps let emotion get the best of us in picking Arkansas State to beat SMU in Jonesboro.
So let’s move on and get to the picks for Week 2:
Ole Miss 27, Arkansas 24 — The Rebels fell to a good Memphis team, 15-10, at the Liberty Bowl on Saturday. Ole Miss had only 42 yards of offense in the first half. The Arkansas defense probably won’t be able to replicate what the Memphis defense did, but this is a winnable game for the Hogs. The key will be on the offensive side of the ball, especially at the quarterback position. Ben Hicks was just 14 of 29 passing against Portland State for 143 yards. Will we see more of Nick Starkel this week? I think so. Hicks played all but two series in the opener. The Rebels were 5-7 a year ago, and that was enough for Matt Luke to bring in two new coordinators. Both are former FBS head coaches. Rich Rodriguez (West Virginia, Michigan and Arizona) is the offensive coordinator. Mike MacIntyre (Colorado) is the defensive coordinator.
Arkansas State 29, UNLV 28 — In David Duggan’s first game as interim head coach, the Red Wolves fell 37-30 to SMU in Jonesboro. ASU junior quarterback Logan Bonner threw four touchdown passes to Omar Bayless, and Bayless tied the school’s single-game record. The Red Wolves make the long trip west this week to do battle with a UNLV squad that’s 1-0 following a 56-23 win last week over Southern Utah. The Rebels were 4-8 a year ago, including a 27-20 loss to ASU in Jonesboro. A UNLV team has not started a season 2-0 since John Robinson’s first year as head coach in 1999 when the Rebels had wins against North Texas and Baylor.
UCA 30, Austin Peay 22 — How about those Bears? They went on the road on Thursday of last week and returned from Bowling Green, Ky., with a 35-28 victory over Western Kentucky of Conference USA. Of course, it’s not a new thing for UCA to beat an FBS school. Don’t forget that the Bears won at Arkansas State just three years ago. UCA quarterback Breylin Smith was 20 of 28 passing for 324 yards. Austin Peay is 1-0 following its 42-10 win over North Carolina Central. The Governors were 5-6 a year ago.
Alabama A&M 19, UAPB 12 — The Golden Lions hung around for a half last Saturday night at Amon Carter Stadium in Fort Worth before falling 38-7 to TCU. The Horned Frogs outgained the Golden Lions 484-225. This week’s road opponent for UAPB is Alabama A&M, which opened its season on national television Sunday afternoon with a 35-30 victory over Morehouse in the Black College Football Hall of Fame Classic at Canton, Ohio. Alabama A&M was 6-5 last year (UAPB was 2-9), including a 45-14 victory over the Golden Lions in Pine Bluff. Expect for it to be closer this year.
Ouachita 17, Harding 14 — What a way to open the Great American Conference season. Ouachita and Harding both went to the NCAA Division II playoffs last year. Ouachita is No. 4 and No. 5 in the two major Division II polls. Harding is No. 16 and No. 18. Ouachita has won four of the first eight GAC titles, and Harding has won one (Henderson won the other three). The Ouachita-Harding game has been decided in the final minutes of play for six consecutive seasons. Ouachita won 7-3 in Searcy last year with a goal-line stand at the end of the game. The Tigers went on to win the conference title and go 11-0 in the regular season. It’s the biggest Division II game in the nation this week, and it kicks off at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia. We’ll give a slight edge to the home team, but this one could easily go the other way.
UAM 31, Arkansas Tech 26 — The Boll Weevils were 6-5 in the regular season a year ago, and Arkansas Tech was a disappointing 3-8. Tech fired its head coach, Raymond Monica, at the end of the season and hired Bo Atterbury away from Southeastern Oklahoma. Before spring practice was over, Atterbury had resigned for what were described publicly as health reasons. Bring in Kyle Shipp, a former Tech player who spent the past five seasons as the UAM offensive coordinator. He would love to win his head coaching debut against his former employer on Thursday night, but the Bolls Weevils appear to have the talent advantage at this point despite the loss of three-year starter Cole Sears at quarterback.
Henderson 39, Oklahoma Baptist 34 — The Reddies were an uncharacteristic 5-6 a year ago but look to be improved with the return of quarterback Richard Stammetti, who had 2,459 yards passing in 2018. Henderson also returns two good running backs in Logan Moragne and Querale Hall. Reddie head coach Scott Maxfield has been oddly quiet during the preseason. That means he’s probably prepared to surprise some folks this year as Henderson again becomes a contender. In the words of Harding head coach Paul Simmons: “It would be a lot more surprising if Henderson didn’t bounce back. He has been at the top too long.”
Southern Arkansas 40, Southern Nazarene 23 — The Muleriders thought they had the talent to win the conference a year ago but finished the regular season 8-3. What was supposed to be a showdown against Ouachita turned into a 35-10 Tiger victory. SAU had defeated Harding in the second week of the season. The Muleriders graduated their best offensive player (quarterback Barrett Renner) and their best defensive player (end DaVondrick Lison). But there’s still plenty of talent in Magnolia.