Rex Nelson: Arkansas College Football Picks Week 1


Each week throughout football season Sporting Life Arkansas excerpts Rex Nelson’s Weekly Arkansas College Football Picks and links to Rex’s Southern Fried Blog for his full predictions. Rex makes his prediction for every NCAA Division I and Division II college football team in the state. Enjoy.

Rex Nelson Archive PageIt’s the time of year so many of you love.

It’s college football season.

Once again, we’ll be predicting the winners of all of the games involving NCAA Division I and Division II teams in the state.

No need for further introductions. Let’s get right to it:

Arkansas 48, UTEP 19 — The University of Texas at El Paso rolls into Fayetteville for a hot Saturday afternoon contest that likely will see a lot of the fans heading for the exits by the end of the third quarter. Hopes are high in Hogland, and there’s a reason for that. Coach Bret Bielema’s program has shown steady progress. It’s hard to fully comprehend just how bad things were on the Hill when Bielema arrived. Much of the success — or lack thereof — this season will depend on how Brandon Allen performs at quarterback. The term “manage the game” is often used for quarterbacks who aren’t super-talented, and Allen has worn the label “game manager” in recent seasons. It’s high time for him to go from “game manager” to “playmaker.” UTEP improved from 2-10 in 2013 to 7-6 last season. The Miners return a tailback who gained more than 1,000 yards in 2014, but let’s not kid ourselves. This really shouldn’t be a close game. The key for Arkansas in these first two games is to get the starters some solid reps, put points on the board early, let the backups play in the second half and don’t get anyone hurt.

USC 45, Arkansas State 20 — There’s simply no truth to the rumor that anyone who stays until the end of Saturday night’s game at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum is invited over to USC head coach Steve Sarkisian’s house for drinks afterward. Fans of the Red Wolves are a bit spoiled after successful seasons in the one-year coaching stints of Hugh Freeze, Gus Malzahn and Bryan Harsin. Based on those standards, the first year of the Blake Anderson regime (7-6 overall and 5-3 in the Sun Belt Conference) was a disappointment. ASU had won at least a share of the conference title in 2011, 2012 and 2013. That wasn’t the case last year. With nine starters back on offense and six starters returning on defense, the Red Wolves should contend for a conference title. USC has 16 returning starters, including nine on offense. The quarterback, all five offensive linemen and two top receivers are back for the Trojans. The plan for the Red Wolves this week is to try to hang around for a half, avoid injuries and pick up that big check before flying home to Arkansas.

Ouachita 28, East Central Oklahoma 27 — It was a dream season in 2014 for Ouachita, which went undefeated in the regular season before losing in overtime in the second round of the NCAA Division II playoffs. The Tigers had a former Southeastern Conference starter at quarterback — Auburn transfer Kiehl Frazier. Redshirt sophomore Austin Warford from Malvern will get the start on Thursday night in Ada, Okla., and this season will rest on how well he can fill Frazier’s big shoes. The Tigers have a solid offensive line, two quality running backs (Chris Oliver from Arkadelphia and Brandon Marks from Prescott) and two of their top receivers returning. East Central is probably the best of the six Oklahoma teams in the Great American Conference. Don’t necessarily be surprised if East Central pulls the upset in Ada on Thursday night against a Ouachita program that has posted seven consecutive winning seasons (the most of any college football program in Arkansas).

For Rex’s complete Arkansas College Football Picks this week, click here.

Arkansas college football picks


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