It was a good third Saturday in October for the three largest football programs in the state.
Arkansas beat Ole Miss, 34-30.
Arkansas State downed South Alabama, 17-7.
And UCA destroyed McNeese State down in Lake Charles, 35-0.
So those who had fallen off the Razorback bandwagon following one-sided losses to Texas A&M and Alabama are back aboard. For now.
Auburn looms on The Plains late Saturday afternoon in yet another ESPN-televised contest for the Hogs.
One of the loudest crowds in school history seemed to will Arkansas to its victory over Ole Miss, the third consecutive year for the Razorbacks to beat the Rebels. Arkansas dominated in time of possession, 40:38 to 19:22, while outgaining the Rebels 429-403. A big factor in time of possession was Rawleigh Williams’ ability to run on the Rebs. He carried the ball 27 times for a career-high 180 yards against the school to which he initially had committed.
Arkansas has now topped 400 yards of offense in six consecutive games.
Hugh Freeze is 2-3 against the Hogs since leaving Arkansas State in Jonesboro for Ole Miss. Arkansas leads the overall series, 34-27-1.
What to make of Auburn?
It’s hard to tell.
People were falling off the Gus Bus right and left when the Tigers lost two of their first three games at home, losing 19-13 to Clemson and 29-16 to Texas A&M. Those two losses were sandwiched around a 51-14 victory over Arkansas State.
The 18-13 win against LSU that cost Les Miles his job has been followed by victories of 58-7 over Louisiana-Monroe and 38-14 over Mississippi State.
The pressure on Gus Malzahn has eased for now.
We were 5-3 on the picks last week, making the record 40-16 for the season.
Here are our picks for Week 8:
Arkansas 30, Auburn 28 — This has the makings of an entertaining game. Auburn has had two weeks to prepare. The Tigers played their first five games at home, went to Starkville for the win over Mississippi State and now return home for the game against the Hogs. Three of the final four Southeastern Conference games on their schedule — against Ole Miss, Georgia and Alabama — will be on the road. Thus the pressure is on Auburn to win this game. Last week, in picking Ole Miss by two points, we wrote: “Don’t be surprised if Arkansas wins. But, as noted, there’s going to have to be better blocking and better defensive line play for that to happen.” Indeed, Arkansas was better along both the offensive and defensive lines last week. The Razorbacks will have to be better up front again this week in their first true SEC road game.
UCA 29, Lamar 19 — The Bears were impressive at a place where it’s traditionally difficult to win. It was, in fact, the first time McNeese State had been shut out at home since 1987. It was the first time for McNeese to be shut out by another Southland Conference team since 1988. UCA is 5-1 overall and 4-0 in conference play, its best start since joining the Southland Conference in 2006. The Bears took full advantage of five Cowboy turnovers. The visitors from Conway led 14-0 at the half, scored on the first possession of the third quarter and led 28-0 at the end of the third quarter. Now, they return home to Conway to face a Lamar team that lost its first three games and has now won three consecutive contests. The losses were by scores of 38-14 to Coastal Carolina, 42-0 to Houston and 44-31 to Sam Houston State. The wins (all conference games, making Lamar 3-1 in the Southland) have been by scores of 38-14 over Southeastern Louisiana, 38-10 over Abilene Christian and 32-31 over Northwestern State of Louisiana.
Southern University 40, UAPB 20 — These are sad days at UAPB. A disgruntled homecoming crowd of 10,501 looked on at Golden Lion Stadium last Saturday afternoon as the Golden Lions fell 40-7 to an Alabama A&M team that had come in with just a 1-5 record. The Golden Lions dropped to 1-5 overall and 1-3 in SWAC play. This week sees UAPB head south to Baton Rouge to take on a 3-2 Southern University squad in its homecoming game. Southern lost 38-21 to Louisiana-Monroe and 66-21 to Tulane to open the season and has since run off victories of 64-6 over Alabama State, 59-31 over Alabama A&M and 28-24 over Jackson State.
Harding 49, East Central Oklahoma 25 — The Bisons appear to be on their way to their first Great American Conference championship and an 11-0 regular season. A week after destroying nationally ranked Henderson in Arkadelphia, the Bisons went to 7-0 with a 63-17 victory over a Southeastern Oklahoma team that had come into Searcy with a 4-2 record. The lead was only 17-14 at the end of the first quarter, but then the Bisons ran off 35 unanswered points in the second quarter. A Thursday night game will see Harding travel to Ada, Okla., to play a 1-6 East Central Oklahoma team. Harding is one of 10 remaining undefeated teams in NCAA Division II, is ranked seventh nationally in Division II by the American Football Coaches Association and is the only team in Division II to rank in the top five in scoring offense and scoring defense. Harding rushed for 557 yards in last year’s 62-20 victory over East Central. This one should be a lot like that.
Henderson 31, Southern Arkansas 27 — The 6-1 Reddies are ranked 15th nationally in Division II but will receive a strong challenge from a 5-2 Southern Arkansas team that was upset in four overtimes at Ouachita last Saturday. Henderson dismantled UAM, 45-17. The Reddies outrushed the Boll Weevils 295-105 as Jaquan Cole scored three touchdowns on the ground. Henderson and Southern Arkansas meet at a neutral site in El Dorado on Saturday afternoon in the Murphy USA Classic. Last year in Arkadelphia, Henderson drove 94 yards in the final two minutes to post a 29-28 victory over the Muleriders. Expect this to be another close game.
Ouachita 39, UAM 32 — Ouachita has been riddled with injuries, including some of its star players. Its quarterback, best receiver and best running back are all out. Down to their fifth-string tailback (they had to pull the redshirt off a freshman), the Tigers somehow outlasted Southern Arkansas, 40-37. The Muleriders went ahead 27-24 on a field goal with just 1:30 left in regulation. With 2.8 seconds left, a Ouachita receiver was able to get out of bounds at the Mulerider 32. Ouachita’s Cole Antley then kicked a 49-yard field goal to send the contest into overtime. Both teams scored touchdowns in the first overtime. In the second overtime, Antley missed a 21-yard field goal (just a yard more than an extra point) that would have won the game. Both teams had field goals in the third overtime. Southern Arkansas missed a field goal in the fourth overtime, and Antley hit one from 36 yards out to win it. It’s homecoming at UAM as the 4-3 Tigers take on the 2-5 Boll Weevils. Because Ouachita has so many players missing, expect the Boll Weevils to keep it close with a chance to win at the end.
Arkansas Tech 34, Southeastern Oklahoma 23 — Tech started the season 2-3 but has posted stellar back-to-back wins, 49-17 over Ouachita and 55-14 over East Central Oklahoma. The Wonder Boys appear to be hitting their stride as Jabyes Cross, who started the season as a wide receiver, improves weekly at quarterback. Last season, Tech scored 43 points in the first half against Southeastern and wound up winning 57-37. In last week’s win against East Central, the Wonder Boys had 613 yards of offense, tying for the sixth-highest total in school history. Southeastern will counter with the running of Devlon Wortham, who needs just 37 yards to become the GAC’s all-time leading rusher.