Rex Nelson: Arkansas College Football Picks Week 12 – Battle of the Ravine


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

Rex Nelson Archive PageIt’s the week when the college football focus in Arkansas turns briefly from the Division I teams to Division II.

To be exact, it’s the week of the Battle of the Ravine in Arkadelphia.

It’s one of my favorite weeks of the year, given that I grew up within walking distance of the Ouachita Baptist University and Henderson State University stadiums. This series has been a big part of my life.

This year, Ouachita is good.

Henderson is very, very good.

Ouachita is 7-2 and only about three or four plays away from being undefeated. There were close losses to Harding University and Southern Arkansas University. This will be the Tigers’ bowl game, in essence, since their postseason hopes ended with the loss to SAU in Magnolia a couple of weeks ago.

Henderson is 10-0, going for its second consecutive undefeated regular season (an amazing feat at any level) and ranked fourth nationally in Division II by the American Football Coaches Association.

The Reddies likely are headed to the Division II playoffs regardless of the outcome Saturday afternoon. Henderson will enter the contest as a heavy favorite. That said, it’s a rivalry game in which strange things can happen. And Ouachita is much healthier than it was a year ago when the Reddies easily disposed of the Tigers in the final game of the regular season.

Kickoff is at 2 p.m. on the Ouachita side of U.S. Highway 67. A joint tailgate party begins early that morning on the Henderson side of the highway. Organizers are making a strong push this year to publicize the events surrounding the game, especially since the University of Arkansas has an open date and some Razorback fans might want to sample the only college football game in America in which the visiting team walks to a road game.

We were 7-1 on the picks last week, missing only on Arkansas State’s game at Louisiana-Monroe as the Red Wolves played their best football of the season.

The record for the year is 68-14.

On to the Arkansas college football picks Week 12:

Henderson 39, Ouachita 28 — Kevin Rodgers, Henderson’s junior quarterback, doesn’t lose games. At least not in the regular season. Rodgers, among the finest quarterbacks in Division II, continues to pile up impressive numbers as his team dominates its opponents. Henderson wrapped up its second consecutive Great American Conference title last week. Ouachita won the first GAC title in 2011, so the football championship has never been away from Arkadelphia in the young history of the conference. Henderson warmed up for the Battle of the Ravine by thumping a decent Southern Arkansas team by a score of 66-24. The Reddies set a single-game school record with 40 first downs. Across the street last Saturday, Ouachita warmed up by shutting out UAM during the game’s final 43 minutes en route to a 35-10 victory over the Boll Weevils. Ouachita had 344 yards rushing. Senior tailback Chris Rycraw from Bryant had 198 of those rushing yards on 29 carries. Ouachita’s veteran defense held the Boll Weevils to 67 yards rushing and 81 yards passing. The keys to Ouachita staying in the game this Saturday will be to get its running game going again, control the time of possession and thus limit the time Rodgers spends on the field. If Ouachita falls behind early and has to get into a passing duel with Henderson, it could get ugly for the Tigers, just like last year.

Arkansas State 30, Texas State 27 — As noted, Arkansas State played its best game to this point in the season when it went to Monroe last Saturday and dominated the second half en route to a 42-14 victory. The Red Wolves are 5-4 overall and 3-1 in the Sun Belt Conference. The score was tied 14-14 at halftime, but the second half belonged to the Red Wolves. It was the 10th consecutive conference road victory for ASU and the biggest margin of victory in a conference road game since the league was formed. Red Wolf quarterback Adam Kennedy passed for 235 yards and rushed for 102 yards. ASU finished the game with 259 yards rushing, the most since the season opener against UAPB. Texas State comes to Jonesboro on Saturday night (it’s too late in the year to be playing night games, by the way) with a 6-3 record. Most of the wins have come against weak opponents. The victories were by scores of 22-15 over Southern Mississippi, 28-3 over Prairie View A&M, 42-21 over Wyoming, 24-17 over Georgia State, 33-31 over South Alabama and 37-21 over Idaho. The losses were by scores of 33-7 to Texas Tech, 48-24 to Louisiana-Lafayette and 21-14 to Louisiana-Monroe. Ever wonder what happened to Dennis Franchione (Alabama fans are still trying to forget him)? Well, he’s in San Marcos coaching Texas State, my wife’s alma mater. We think Coach Fran will lose a close one in Jonesboro.

For Rex’s complete Arkansas College Football Picks Week 12, click here.

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