I haven’t talked to too many people in Arkansas who are looking forward to this week’s Arkansas-Alabama game.
How could they given the 52-7 debacle in Fayetteville last Saturday?
— South Carolina led 43:25 to 16:35 in time of possession.
— South Carolina led 537 to 248 in total offense.
— South Carolina had 32 first downs. Arkansas had seven.
— South Carolina ran 89 plays. Arkansas ran just 37, a number that’s hard to believe given today’s style of college football.
— Brandon Allen was just four of 12 passing for 30 yards. Connor Shaw for South Carolina went 19 of 28 for 219 yards and three touchdowns.
It was Bret Bielema’s worst loss as a head coach, a record that might only last until this Saturday (though Nick Saban is less likely than Steve Superior to run up the score on a downtrodden opponent).
Are you looking for a silver lining?
Well, Arkansas leads the series against South Carolina, 13-9. Steve Spurrier is 4-5 at South Carolina against Arkansas (he was 3-0 against the Hogs at Florida).
It’s not just the Razorbacks who are losing games. This is not shaping up to be the kind of year that last year was in college football in this state. If you take the Hogs out of the equation, 2012 might have been the greatest college football year in the state’s history.
Arkansas State won a conference championship and a bowl game.
UCA won a conference championship and earned a playoff bid.
UAPB won a conference championship.
Henderson won a conference championship, went 10-0 in the regular season and made the playoffs.
Harding went 9-1 in the regular season and made the playoffs.
Southern Arkansas went 8-2 in the regular season and went to a bowl game.
This year is different.
As we reach the middle of October, there are only three of the 12 college football teams in Arkansas with winning records (and two of them are in Arkadelphia).
Henderson is 6-0, Ouachita is 5-0 and Harding is 4-1.
Ouachita and Harding play Saturday afternoon in Arkadelphia in the biggest game to this point of the season in the Great American Conference.
We were 6-2 on the picks last week, making the record 44-10 for the season.
On to the picks for Week 8 of the college football season:
Alabama 45, Arkansas 10 — Frankly, there’s not much to say here. This is a fragile Razorback team. And this is an Alabama team that believes it will win each time it takes the field. At best, Razorback fans can hope that their team plays hard. Last year’s team, under the clueless John L. Smith, often showed signs of throwing in the towel. Losing isn’t a disgrace in the SEC. Quitting is.
UCA 28, Lamar 24 — These are dark times, relatively speaking, at UCA. The Bears evened their record at 3-3 last Saturday in Conway against a bad Division II team, Nebraska-Kearney. But they lost senior quarterback Wynrick Smothers to a broken ankle in that 31-0 victory. Smothers was the Southland Conference Offensive Player of the Year last season when he threw 31 touchdown passes. The quarterbacking responsibilities now fall on junior Ryan Howard and sophomore Taylor Reed (who led El Dorado to state championships and started for Memphis as a freshman). UCA will be smelling the chemical fumes of Beaumont, Texas, this Saturday as the Bears play Lamar. The home team also comes in with a 3-3 record. The Lamar victories have been by scores of 75-0 over Panhandle State, 53-0 over Bacone College and 27-17 over Grambling State. The losses have been by scores of 27-14 to Louisiana Tech, 59-3 to Oklahoma State and 14-3 to Sam Houston State. Something tells me the Bears will rally in the face of adversity.
Southern University 30, UAPB 21 — Something had to give last Saturday in Pine Bluff. UAPB and Texas Southern came into the game with 0-5 records. UAPB lost, 41-28. This has shaped up to be a college football season to forget in Jefferson County, where at least the high school football is good. Quarterback Ben Anderson did have a decent game for the Golden Lions. He was 26 of 45 passing for 316 yards and one touchdown. He also rushed for 86 yards and three touchdowns. It’s homecoming weekend at UAPB, an event that always fills the stands. Southern is 3-3. The losses have been by scores of 62-13 to Houston, 55-14 to Northwestern State of Louisiana and 19-14 to Jackson State. The victories have been by scores of 62-59 over Prairie View A&M in two overtimes, 17-7 over Mississippi Valley State and 20-17 over Alabama A&M in two overtimes.
Harding 34, Ouachita 31 — This should be one heck of a college football game. I’m glad I’m going to be at A.U. Williams Field in Arkadelphia on Saturday afternoon to see it. The winner becomes the top challenger to Henderson (though it appears the Reddies are on the way to being undefeated in the regular season for a second consecutive year) and could well be headed to the postseason. Ouachita was 6-0 when it hosted Harding last year, and the Bisons won. Now, a 5-0 Tiger team (that’s much healthier than the injury-riddled squad of a year ago) will try to get done what it couldn’t accomplish last year. I like to call this the Battle for the Old Wooden Collection Plate since these are the only two church-related schools in the state playing Division II football. Ouachita went to 5-0 at home last Saturday with a 45-21 homecoming win over Northwestern Oklahoma. Senior tailback Chris Rycraw out of Bryant rushed for 163 yards and scored three touchdowns in that game. After being upset by Southwestern Oklahoma in the first game of the season, Harding has run off four consecutive victories. The Bisons defeated UAM, 63-30, last weekend in Searcy. Harding, an option team, leads NCAA Division II in rushing yardage and had 337 rushing yards against the Boll Weevils in the first half alone. Harding finished with 474 yards on the ground. Junior quarterback Keenan Kellett scored four rushing touchdowns. Can a Tiger defense that returned 10 starters from last year slow the Bison rushing attack?
Henderson 50, Arkansas Tech 26 — The Reddies are up to No. 5 nationally in the American Football Coaches Association Division II poll. They take their show on the road this week to El Dorado to face Arkansas Tech in the Boomtown Classic. The Reddies beat Southwestern Oklahoma in Arkadelphia by a score of 45-17 last Saturday. Henderson had 458 yards of offense as junior quarterback Kevin Rodgers was 29 of 40 passing for 378 yards and four touchdowns. Arkansas Tech fell behind Southern Arkansas by a score of 13-0 and then came back to shock the Muleriders, 14-13. Tech is 3-3. Wonder Boy quarterback Luke Halpin was 22 of 32 passing for 274 yards and two touchdowns.
Southern Arkansas 42, Southern Nazarene 22 — The Muleriders are 3-3 and have been a bit of a disappointment so far after having been picked in the preseason to finish among the top three teams in the conference. But they should have no problem on the road in Oklahoma on Saturday against an 0-6 Southern Nazarene team that’s having a hard time making the transition from NAIA to NCAA Division II.
UAM 49, Lindenwood University-Belleville 29 — Speaking of the NAIA, UAM gets a break from GAC play with a nonconference game against an NAIA team out of Illinois. It’s a good time for a breather after the whipping the Weevils sustained at Harding.