Rex Nelson: 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. Here are the week 1 college football picks. Enjoy.

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Rex Nelson Archive PageSo what to make of these Razorbacks of 2016?

Bret Bielema, a man for whom the glass is always half full, enters his fourth season at the University of Arkansas thinking the Hogs have a chance to be in the running late in the season for an SEC championship.

Senior leadership is important in college football, and Bielema is a believer in this senior class. The captains are Dan Skipper, Kody Walker, Brooks Ellis and Deatrich Wise.

“One thing that’s very apparent with this team is we have great senior leadership,” Bielema says. “I don’t think I’ve ever, going into my 11th year as a head coach, been blessed to literally have a senior at every position. … They’re great role models, leaders and players.”

Redshirt junior Austin Allen is, of course, untested at quarterback but reportedly has looked good in preseason drills.

Enough of the preseason talk. It’s time to suit up and see how this edition of the Razorbacks looks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on what should be a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Let’s get to the picks for Week 1:

Arkansas 40, Louisiana Tech 29 — Tech should provide a decent test for this Arkansas team even though the Bulldogs return just three starters on defense and six on offense from a team that went 9-4 overall and 6-2 in Conference USA last season. Coach Skip Holtz is 22-17 in his three seasons at Ruston. A major weapon is senior wide receiver Trent Taylor, who had 99 catches for 1,282 yards and nine touchdowns last year. Those who have departed include tailback Kenneth Dixon from Strong, quarterback Jeff Driskel and defensive tackle Vernon Butler, who was selected in the first round of the NFL draft by the Carolina Panthers. A media panel picked the Bulldogs to finish second in Conference USA West. Tech is one of just 18 FBS programs to win nine or more games in each of the past two seasons.

Toledo 34, Arkansas State 31 — Razorback fans remember Toledo all too well. That’s the school that shocked Arkansas, 16-12, on Sept. 12 of last year at War Memorial Stadium in Little Rock. Two weeks later, Toledo easily disposed of Arkansas State, 37-7. The Rockets have a new head coach in Jason Candle, who had been an assistant at the school since 2009. Toledo was 10-2 in 2015, its sixth consecutive winning season. This is a rare Friday night game (I hate Friday night college football since it infringes on the high school game, but television now calls the shots) in Jonesboro. It will be the third game between the two schools in the past three seasons. The Rockets also defeated Arkansas State in January 2015 (63-44) in the GoDaddy Bowl. On offense, the Rockets return two All-MAC running backs, senior Kareem Hunt and junior Terry Swanson. Blake Anderson is 16-10 in two years at ASU, including a 9-4 record last year when the Red Wolves went to the New Orleans Bowl (and fell 47-28 to Louisiana Tech). ASU lost key skilled position players. The Red Wolves likely will play both Chad Voytik and Justice Hansen at quarterback Friday.

UCA 28, Houston Baptist 17 — The Bears open at home Thursday. UCA finished 7-4 a year ago, making Steve Campbell 13-10 in his two years as the head coach. Five starters return on defense, and four starters return on offense. Houston Baptist was 2-9 last season and 0-8 in the Southland Conference. The Bears won last year’s meeting in Houston, 43-7, and should be able to roll to victory again Thursday on the stripes in Conway despite having a young team. Campbell says several new assistant coaches have infused a sense of energy into the program. It probably won’t be enough for a conference championship given the number of first-time starters, but the Bears appear poised for another winning season.

To see all of the other picks, click here.

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