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College football: Week 8

Razorback fans had a free Saturday.

So did followers of the Red Wolves.

Some of us stayed busy with college football last weekend. I made the long trip west to Weatherford, Okla., to watch the Ouachita Tigers remain alone atop the Great American Conference with a 48-38 victory over Southwestern Oklahoma.

It’s back to work tonight (Tuesday) for the Red Wolves as they host Florida International in Jonesboro in an ESPN2 game.

For Razorback fans, there’s the short trip over to Oxford on Saturday.

“Do you think we’re walking into a trap?” someone asked me at breakfast this morning.

There’s this notion among Arkansas fans that Houston Nutt can motivate his troops enough to spring one really big upset each year. They fear that upset could come this Saturday.

Here’s what I told the fellow who asked me the question: HDN simply doesn’t have enough talent in 2011 to pull that off. He can try all the motivational tricks in the book. He can tell them that you spell “fun” W-I-N. He can say it’s time to hold the rope. He can give them sticks and tell them to “bring that wood.”

It shouldn’t matter.

Arkansas has superior talent.

And with two weeks to prepare for this game, it seems obvious that Bobby Petrino and his staff will have their players focused. What, they’re going to be caught looking ahead to Vanderbilt?

So enjoy your trip to Oxford, Hog fans. It should be a fun day.

As for last weekend’s action, there were more punches thrown at the end of the UAPB game in Pine Bluff than were thrown in the entire Bernard Hopkins fight in Los Angeles. The Golden Lions are open this week, so we’ll stay away from further boxing analogies.

Let me just ask this: Why did the Golden Lion head coach, former NFL star Monte Coleman, get hit in the face with pepper spray?

First, he was at home. You spray the visiting coach, not the home coach.

Second, he won. I might understand it if UAPB had lost.

Memo to the UAPB security force: Don’t spray your own head coach after exciting home victories.

We were 4-3 last week. We shouldn’t have picked UCA and UAPB to lose (I might get pepper sprayed for that pick). Still, the record for the year is 45-14.

On to this week’s picks:

Arkansas State 31, Florida International 24 — FIU defeated the Red Wolves, 31-24, last season. We’ll pick ASU by that same score tonight since the Red Wolves are 3-0 at home against the Panthers. This is a key game in the first year of the Hugh Freeze era at Jonesboro as Freeze continues to build confidence among his players and regional fan support. ASU is 4-2 overall and 2-0 in the Sun Belt Conference. FIU is 4-2 and 1-1. The Red Wolves played four of their first six games on the road, including the first two conference games. For the first time since 1985, an ASU team has won back-to-back conference road games. A victory tonight would give ASU its best record through seven games, its first 3-0 start in conference play and its first four-game winning streak since 2006. The Red Wolves are 26-7 at ASU Stadium since the 2005 season. Hopefully being at home will make the difference tonight.

Arkansas 44, Ole Miss 21: Let’s face it: The 2-4 Rebels just aren’t very good. Ole Miss had only 113 yards of offense in its 52-7 loss to Alabama. Just 28 of those yards came on the ground. Alabama’s 52 points were the most for the Tide in an SEC game since 1990. It was the worst conference defeat for Ole Miss since a 49-3 loss to Florida in 1981. Alabama scored on five of its six second-half possessions. The Crimson Tide had 615 yards of offense. Alabama finished with 389 rushing yards with 183 of those yards coming from Trent Richardson. One other prediction: Several thousand Ole Miss fans will choose to spend the entire afternoon in the Grove, never wandering over to the stadium.

Ouachita 48, Southern Arkansas 42 — Ouachita is alone atop the GAC standings at 3-0. The Tigers, who are 4-2 overall, can be impressive on offense at times. But the Ouachita defense gives up a lot of points. That’s why you should expect a high-scoring game as Southern Arkansas rolls into Arkadelphia. Ouachita had seven rushing touchdowns in its victory over Southwestern Oklahoma — three from sophomore Chris Rycraw out of Bryant, three from junior Daniel McGee out of Fort Smith Southside and one from junior quarterback Casey Cooper from Conway. The 2-5 Muleriders showed a bit of offensive life last week in a 49-17 victory over Arkansas Tech. It was the widest margin of victory for a Southern Arkansas team since 2005. Mulerider quarterback Tyler Sykora was 17 of 27 passing for 335 yards. His five touchdown passes set a school record.

UCA 26, Lamar 18 — The Bears started the season 1-3 but have now won three consecutive games to go to 4-3 overall and 3-1 in the Southland Conference. UCA held off McNeese State in Conway last Saturday afternoon by a score of 21-18. It took an interception with 17 seconds left to secure the victory. McNeese fumbled seven times and lost three of those fumbles. The Bears also came up with two interceptions. UCA senior linebacker Frank Newsome set a school record with a 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown. UCA quarterback Nathan Dick was 15 of 25 passing for 201 yards and two touchdowns. Lamar is 3-3, but two of the victories came against much smaller schools, Texas College and Incarnate Word. Texas State defeated Lamar last Saturday, 46-21. It’s homecoming in Beaumont, but the Bears should be able to take care of business on the road.

Henderson 46, East Central Oklahoma 35 — This may be the best game of the week in the GAC. Henderson started the season 1-3, but the Reddies have rolled on offense in back-to-back wins over West Georgia and Southeastern Oklahoma. Henderson is now 3-3 overall and 2-1 in conference play. In the 30-14 victory at Southeastern Oklahoma, the Reddies had 525 yards of offense, including 319 yards on the ground. For the first time since 2004, Henderson had two running backs top 100 yards rushing in a game — Israel Valentin with 134 and Jarvis Smith with 105. Meanwhile, East Central held UAM to just 163 yards of offense in a 34-9 victory over the Boll Weevils. East Central is 3-1 in conference play (its only GAC loss was to Ouachita in the season opener) and 5-2 overall.

Southwestern Oklahoma 30, Harding 28 — This is a tough one to pick. One of these days, the 2-5 Bisons are going to hold onto the football long enough to win another game. Harding lost a 49-41 heartbreaker at Northeastern Oklahoma last Saturday. Trailing 43-41, the Bisons lined up for the potential game-winning field goal from 38 yards with three seconds remaining. The kick was blocked and returned for a touchdown. Southwestern fell to 4-3 overall and 2-3 in conference with its loss to Ouachita. The Bulldogs, however, have a talented sophomore quarterback who should pass for plenty of yards in Searcy on Saturday afternoon.

Northeastern Oklahoma 42, UAM 29 — Northeastern Oklahoma, which is 4-3 overall, has won three consecutive games. UAM fell to 3-4 with its loss at East Central Oklahoma. The Boll Weevils seem to be getting worse on offense rather than better as the season progresses.

Southeastern Oklahoma 21, Arkansas Tech 19 — These are two teams that are struggling mightily. Tech fell to 1-6 overall and 0-2 in conference play with its loss in Magnolia. It’s strange to see the Wonder Boys this far down. After winning its first two games, Southeastern Oklahoma has dropped four straight. It’s certainly a winnable game for Tech if the Wonder Boys can find a way to recover mentally from that disaster in Magnolia last Saturday.

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