The college football spotlight was on the state of Mississippi last weekend for the first time in my memory.
After Rebel and Bulldog victories, we entered the week with Ole Miss and Mississippi State tied for third in The Associated Press poll. That’s the highest the Rebels have been ranked since 1963 (the last time they won a Southeastern Conference championship in football) and the highest the Bulldogs have ever been ranked. Mississippi State’s previous best was No. 7 in 1981. The last SEC title at State? It was in 1941.
The AP poll has been around since 1936, and this was only the second time that four of the top six teams lost on the same weekend. The other time was 1990. It was quite a weekend of college football.
You have to believe that Alabama has been extremely focused in practice this week following that 23-17 loss at Ole Miss. As much as those of us in Arkansas would like it to be so, it’s hard to imagine an Alabama team losing back-to-back conference games.
For four consecutive weeks, I’ve missed only one pick per week. Last week’s miss was UCA at Stephen F. Austin. The 3-3 Bears have been hard to figure out in their first season under head coach Steve Campbell. They will try to go to 3-0 in Southland Conference play on Saturday night in Conway against Houston Baptist.
With last week’s 6-1 record on the picks, the season record is now 43-4.
Let’s get to the picks for Week 7 of the college football season:
Alabama 30, Arkansas 19 — Ole Miss quarterback Bo Wallace threw for 251 yards and three touchdowns as the Rebels went to 5-0 for the first time since 1962, ending a 10-game losing streak against the Crimson Tide. Arkansas will try to establish the run first on Saturday in Fayetteville, but quarterback Brandon Allen is also going to have to have a great day passing for Arkansas to have a chance. Arkansas, which has the SEC’s longest losing streak when it comes to conference games, has not scored on Alabama since the third quarter of the 2011 game. Alabama has shut out the Razorbacks the last nine quarters. Arkansas will score some points Saturday; just not enough.
Arkansas State 28, Georgia State 22 — The Red Wolves are 3-2 overall and 1-0 in the Sun Belt Conference following last week’s victory over Louisiana-Monroe in a night game at Jonesboro. It’s off to Atlanta this week as ASU takes on Georgia State in its homecoming game at the Georgia Dome. Georgia State is 1-4 overall and 0-2 in Sun Belt conference action but has kept most games close. The only win was 38-37 over Abilene Christian in the season opener. The losses have been by scores of 34-31 to New Mexico State, 48-38 to Air Force, 45-14 to Washington and 34-31 to Louisiana-Lafayette.
UCA 35, Houston Baptist 20 — This is a weak Houston Baptist team that’s coming to Conway. The only win was over the awful Texas College team (almost a club program) that a few of the Division II schools in Arkansas have picked on through the years. The Houston Baptist losses have been by scores of 26-17 to McMurry, 28-20 to Northern Colorado, 59-14 to Abilene Christian and 31-8 to Incarnate Word. It was a sweet victory for the Bears last week over former head coach Clint Conque, 49-39. UCA came back from a 31-21 deficit in the third quarter. Quarterback Taylor Reed out of El Dorado completed 14 of 18 passes for 212 yards and four touchdowns.
Ouachita 47, Northwestern Oklahoma 26 — Ouachita is one of four undefeated college teams in the state (along with Harding, Hendrix and Henderson). The 4-0 Tigers make their longest road trip of the season this week to Alva, Okla. Ouachita has won the past two seasons against the Rangers by scores of 45-21 and 55-3. The defense scored three touchdowns in Ouachita’s 54-21 victory over Southwestern Oklahoma last Saturday at Cliff Harris Stadium in Arkadelphia. Kyle Lamothe had two fumble returns of 20 yards each for touchdowns and A.J. Burton returned an interception 70 yards for a score. It was 54-7 when Ouachita put in the substitutes.
Henderson 49, Southwestern Oklahoma 27 — The Reddies are 5-0 and ranked No. 7 in NCAA Division II. Last Saturday in Arkadelphia, they won their 28th consecutive regular-season game with a 63-14 thrashing of Northwestern Oklahoma. You’ll remember that Henderson quarterback Kevin Rodgers became the state’s all-time passing leader earlier in the fall. Well, Henderson also now has the state’s all-time receiving leader, senior Darius Davis. He has 2,959 receiving yards, breaking the record of 2,934 yards set by Jarius Wright at Arkansas from 2008-11. Rodgers was 25 of 33 passing last week for 296 yards and four touchdowns. Henderson led 43-0 at halftime, having outgained the Rangers 352 yards to 23 yards. Henderson finished the game with 619 yards of offense. This week’s opponent, Southwestern Oklahoma, is 2-3.
Southern Arkansas 31, Arkansas Tech 25 — This may be the closest game of the weekend in the Great American Conference. We’ll give a slight edge to the Muleriders since they’re playing at home. SAU is 2-3, and Arkansas Tech is 3-2. The Wonder Boys won by a point, 14-13, last year. Tech held on for an 18-13 victory over 1-4 UAM last Saturday in Russellville. Southern Arkansas, meanwhile, was being pounded by Harding, 56-13.
Harding 40, UAM 18 — Let’s again state what we’ve been saying all year: This is a VERY good Harding team. The Bisons lead NCAA Division II in both rushing and rush defense. In last week’s win over SAU, which made the Bisons 4-0, Harding rushed for 500 yards with six backs gaining 45 or more yards. It was Harding’s eighth consecutive victory, tying a school record set in 1972-73. UAM has lost four games by a total of 18 points. Against Arkansas Tech last week, the Boll Weevils had only 27 yards rushing and 169 yards of total offense.