It was a nice, relaxing weekend for Razorback fans.
An open date, in other words.
No need to worry about a lack of offensive production, defensive breakdowns or poor game management by the coaching staff.
Is this the point we’ve reached in this state?
It has come to this: The 11 a.m. kickoff slot (the one usually reserved for the likes of Northwestern, Iowa State, Connecticut and Kansas) in each of the next two games; two teams badly in need of victories with depressed fan bases and coaches on the hot seat; rumors of fights in practice; angry callers to talk-radio shows.
The record was 5-3 on the picks last week as the Great American Conference threw me for a loop. I just didn’t see Harding, Henderson and Ouachita all losing at home to Oklahoma teams. I still think the cream (meaning the Arkansas teams) will rise to the top of the GAC during the course of an 11-game season.
We’re 18-5 for the season and ready to go another round, starting with two games in the DFW Metroplex that are awfully hard to pick.
Texas A&M 31, Arkansas 29 — Flip a coin on this one. These are two programs in search of answers. Arkansas, which is 1-1, looked bad in its 28-7 loss to TCU but has had two weeks to prepare for the Aggies. Texas A&M is 2-1 with a head coach, Kevin Sumlin, who seems to survive on a day-to-day basis in College Station. Arkansas has an offense that ranks 116th nationally in passing and 56th in rushing. That kind of production won’t win many games in the Southeastern Conference. We’ll give the slight edge to the Aggies based on the fact that they’ve dominated Arkansas in recent years, including a 45-24 victory over the Hogs last season. The Razorbacks won the first three games between these two teams in Arlington (2009-11) but have lost the last three in AT&T Stadium from 2014-16.
Arkansas State 39, SMU 37 — ASU didn’t get to play Miami in Jonesboro two weeks ago, but the Red Wolves did have an opportunity to beat up on poor ol’ UAPB a week later. ASU could have named the score. The final was 48-3 as Red Wolf quarterback Justice Hansen was 24 of 31 passing for 336 yards in only three quarters of play. He had five touchdown passes, tying the school record set by Fredi Knighten in the 2015 GoDaddy Bowl. Visiting Arkansans who want a full day of football can easily make it to the Arkansas-Texas A&M game in Arlington at 11 a.m. and then go to Gerald Ford Stadium in Dallas in time to watch 1-1 ASU and 2-1 SMU square off at 6 p.m. Arkansas State played well in a loss to Nebraska to open the season. SMU started the year with wins of 58-14 over Stephen F. Austin and 54-32 over North Texas before falling last Saturday by a final of 56-36 to TCU. Expect this to be an exciting, high-scoring game.
Jackson State 21, UAPB 19 — The Golden Lions are 1-2 and make a trip to Jackson, Miss., to take on an 0-3 Jackson State team that has lost 63-0 to TCU, 17-15 to Tennessee State and 36-21 to Grambling. We’ll give the edge to the home team in a battle between two programs that are likely to struggle the entire season.
Arkansas Tech 47, Southern Nazarene 28 — Tech and Southern Nazarene have been the more pleasant surprises during the first three weeks of the GAC season. The Wonder Boys upset preseason favorite Southern Arkansas in Russellville to start the current campaign, went on the road to defeat Henderson and then returned to Russellville to demolish Oklahoma Baptist by a final score of 58-21. Quarterback Ty Reasnor was 14 of 19 passing for 264 yards and four touchdowns in last Saturday’s game for Arkansas Tech. Southern Nazarene, the whipping boy since entering the conference, is off to a 2-1 start that no one saw coming. This is the week that reality hits against a Tech team that has superior talent at almost every position.
Harding 30, Oklahoma Baptist 20 — What a difference a year makes. Harding was 11-0 in the regular season a year ago and won its first two games in the NCAA Division II playoffs. But the Bisons find themselves 0-3 in 2017 after a shocking 28-27 loss to Southern Nazarene in a game played at Searcy. Harding led 27-14 in the final minute of the fourth quarter. Nazarene scored a touchdown with 49 seconds remaining, recovered an onside kick and scored again with 29 seconds left. This is the week that Harding gets well against 0-3 Oklahoma Baptist.
Ouachita 42, East Central Oklahoma 32 — Ouachita and Southeastern Oklahoma both came into their game at Arkadelphia last Saturday with 2-0 records and a chance to be tied with Arkansas Tech atop the GAC standings. Southeastern escaped Cliff Harris Stadium with a 41-35 victory after the Ouachita defense failed to show up in the first half. The Savage Storm scored on all five first-half possessions. Southeastern led by 20 points at the end of three quarters, but Ouachita stormed back with two quick touchdowns. The Tigers, however, were unable to score on their final two possessions. It was the first time for Southeastern to beat Ouachita in Arkadelphia since 1999. A mad group of Tigers goes to Ada, Okla., this Saturday to take on a 1-2 East Central team that lost 49-7 to UAM last weekend.
Henderson 26, Southwestern Oklahoma 16 — What’s wrong with the Reddies? A lot of people are asking that question this week. After all, Henderson won three of the first six GAC titles. The Reddies find themselves 1-2 after a 36-30 loss to a Northwestern Oklahoma team that came in at 0-2. Henderson went ahead with a field goal with 3:24 left in the game that made the score 30-28. But Northwestern scored with 1:32 remaining, leading to some soul searching this week at the School With A Heart. Southwestern won its opener at UAM but has since fallen to Ouachita by 28 points and and Southern Arkansas by 24 points. Expect this to be the week that Henderson starts getting its act together.
Southern Arkansas 38, Northwestern Oklahoma 33 — After that season-opening loss at Arkansas Tech, the Muleriders have bounced back for victories over Harding and Southwestern Oklahoma. In the 38-14 victory in Magnolia against Southwestern, Mulerider quarterback Barrett Renner was 18 of 29 passing with three touchdowns. Northwestern is much improved this year. It played Ouachita and UAM tough before the win over Henderson. Expect the Rangers to give the Muleriders all they can handle out in Alva on Saturday night.
Southeastern Oklahoma 44, UAM 40 — It’s 3-0 Southeastern hosting 2-1 UAM in Durant in one of the better games of the week. Boll Weevil quarterback Cole Sears was 23 of 34 passing for 383 yards and four touchdowns in UAM’s 49-7 win over East Central Oklahoma. Sears also rushed for 70 yards. He will need to have another big night this Saturday since Southeastern is beginning to feel as if it can compete for a GAC title.