GAC Week One

August 29th, 2022 10:35am

GAC Week One

The 2022 Great American Conference season gets underway on Thursday evening across Oklahoma and Arkansas. By the time the clock turns to Friday, some questions will have been answered while a whole new list of questions will have arisen. It should be a great year in the GAC, so let’s get to the actual football. 

All week one matchups take place on Thursday night and all pit Oklahoma schools against their Arkansas brethren. 

(Rankings reflected at poll)


Game of the Week: No. 9 Harding at East Central

What an opportunity right off the bat for East Central. The Tigers return 20 starters from last year’s 7-4 squad and get the preseason pick to win the GAC at home to start the year. Add in the fact Harding will be breaking in a new quarterback and East Central should be licking their chops.

However, Harding has been the class of the conference for years now for good reason. They’re well-stocked with talent and have the depth to deal with whatever the Tigers throw at them. The biggest key for this game will be if the Bisons can keep the East Central offense off-schedule and force the Tigers into predictable situations. 

Who will be the quarterback for Harding? Junior Peyton Harlow is the returning backup from 2021, but redshirt freshman Cole Keylon, a lefty, figures to see the field as well. 

It’s a tough ask for the defending champs to break in a new quarterback on the road against a very experienced East Central team. But Harding should be able to keep the Tiger offense at bay and scratch out a season-opening win. Harding 24, ECU 14


No. 17 Ouachita Baptist at Oklahoma Baptist

Last year was the first time since 2016 the Tigers didn’t finish on top of the conference standings. Expect Ouachita to be primed and ready to make a statement in Shawnee against an Oklahoma Baptist team that is replacing the best quarterback, running back, wide receiver and defensive player in school history.

There’s plenty back on both sides of the ball for the Tigers to reassert themselves as the dominant force in the conference, none more so than the return of TJ Cole and Kendal Givens at running back. The duo combined for 2,200 yards and 40 touchdowns on the ground last season. 

Forcing the Tigers to throw will be key for the Bison. Last year in Shawnee, OBU held Harding to their lowest output of the season on the ground at just 245 yards (averaged 390/game in 2021).

The Bison nearly pulled off the upset in Arkadelphia in 2021, falling 38-31. This game may be in Shawnee, but facing Ouachita with a brand new quarterback is not the ideal way to start the year. Ouachita 35, OBU 17


Arkansas Tech at Southeastern Oklahoma State

The Savage Storm come into the 2022 season with a legitimate shot at the GAC crown. The coaches pegged them No. 3 in the preseason poll, but you could very easily make the case to put them No. 1. The amount of talent returning on both sides of the ball rivals that of any other team in the conference, particularly of the contenders. While they may have snuck up on some people a year ago, they will not enjoy such a luxury this year.

Arkansas Tech is looking to continue the momentum they held at the end of last season. After starting 0-4, they went 4-3 over their last seven games. There’s uncertainty at quarterback and running back, but there are talented options there as well. A freshman class that coach Kyle Shipp has praised constantly is primed to help the Wonder Boys climb back up through the GAC. 

Getting pressure on quarterback Daulton Hatley will be extremely important for Tech. However, a strong and veteran offensive line for the Savage Storm make that a tough ask.

Southeastern knows a conference title is a distinct possibility and will get that journey started with a win in Durant. Southeastern 41, Arkansas Tech 21


Northwestern Oklahoma State at Southern Arkansas

This is a fascinating matchup because there are just so many questions for both teams on both sides of the ball. We know Tanner Clarkson at quarterback and Brian Holiday at defensive tackle will lead their respective units for Northwestern and Jariq Scales is going to get a lot of carries for Southern Arkansas. 

Outside of that, it’s anyones guess how this will go. Has Northwestern’s defense made positive strides? How will SAU deal with replacing a bunch of key players on the defensive line and with a new quarterback? 

There are a lot of question marks in this matchup and how those have been answered in preseason camp will go a long way toward determining the winner of this game. Southern Arkansas has a few less questions and should get the home-opening win. Southern Arkansas 37, Northwestern 24


Arkansas-Monticello at Southern Nazarene

Year-after-year, the Weevils have been right in the middle of the conference, taking care of business against the bottom of the league and competitive against top half with a surprise thrown in here and there. Is this the year coach Hud Jackson’s bunch takes a step up? They’ve certainly got the quarterback to do it in Demilon Brown. The UAM defense will have to replace a lot of the defensive line while dealing with SNU’s spread option offense and the return of Gage Porter, who missed nearly all of 2021 with a shoulder injury. 

Porter started nearly all of the 2018 and 2019 seasons and has a solid offensive line and a plethora of skill position players around him. The defense has bulked up across the board and has veterans at every level, plus a bunch of young talent coach Dustin Hada is quite excited about. 

This is the biggest wild card of the week by far. The past two meetings have been close games both won by UAM. This will be a huge momentum boost for the Crimson Storm as they pull off the season-opening win. SNU 34, Monticello 27


Southwestern Oklahoma State at Henderson State

It’s a whole new roster in Weatherford for new coach Josh Kirkland. 10 DI transfers will take the field in Arkadelphia, looking to lift SWOSU out of the memories of the 0-11 season the Bulldogs endured last year. The growth may take time but this game will give us a good idea how competitive the Bulldogs will be in 2022.

Henderson State has plenty of holes to replace themselves, big ones in impact on offense and big ones by quantity on defense. However, the Reddies have been here before and have adequately replaced stars before. After all, the Reddies do have three GAC titles to their name for a reason, but none since 2015. 

It’s not the easiest ask for a new head coach to go to Arkadelphia and take on the high-flying Reddies in his first contest. Plus, Henderson State is breaking in a brand-new field surface and won’t want to sully it in its first game action. Henderson State 45, SWOSU 17