November 2nd, 2023 7:00am
Welcome to Week 10 in the Great American Conference. Just one final week before we get to what should be quite the spicy rivalry week next week. Playoff positioning and hopes remain for several teams in the league, so everyone is trying to finish the year strong.
Before we get to the games, let’s look at last week’s Players of the Week for the conference.
Offensive Player of the Week: Andrew Edwards, QB, Henderson State
-18-of-22 passing, 331 yards
-Five touchdown passes
Defensive Player of the Week: Melvin Smith, Jr., DB, Southern Arkansas
-100-yard interception return for touchdown
-Three passes broken up
Special Teams Player of the Week: Cameron Thomas, KR, Henderson State
-72-yard kickoff return for touchdown
-First HSU kickoff return touchdown since Sept. 2015
Special Teams Player of the Week: Tainique Taylor, PR, Oklahoma Baptist
-54-yard punt return for touchdown
-First punt return touchdown in OBU’s D2 era
Game of the Week: Oklahoma Baptist (6-3) at No. 12 Ouachita Baptist (8-1)
The only matchup of teams with winning records also pits the two Baptist schools against one another. No truth to the rumors the Ouachita marching band will only be playing hymns in the stands for this one. The Bison have had a great bounce back season this year after going 1-10 in 2022. However, closing with road games at Ouachita and Southern Nazarene is a tough task, so we’ll see how the season-long improvement turns out. The Bison defense has been particularly good this year, ranking third in total defense and second in yards per play defense. They’ll be tested by the Tigers, who are coming off their second-best offensive output of 550 yards at Southern Nazarene. However, one area the Bison could take advantage of the Tigers is with their ferocious pass rush. The Bison have racked up 29 sacks this year while the Tigers have surrendered 15, a middle-of-the-pack number in the league. If the pass rush can get to quarterback Riley Harms, it could be a tough day for the Ouachita offense.
However, the problem for the Bison is they can’t run the ball. Running back EJ Moore, who started the season well, is out with injury for the remainder of the year, and the Bison have suffered greatly without him, averaging just 74 yards on the ground in the past five games without him. Last year’s leading rusher, Buddy Bizzell, has been unable to step into that void. The Tigers’ defense is more than capable of shutting down the Bison offense, especially since the Bison are so one-dimensional right now. I mean, two weeks ago against Northwestern OSU, the Bison ran for 27 yards on 22 carries. That ain’t gonna fly against the Jax Miller, Trey Proctor and the Tiger defense.
I think we might have a defensive struggle for a lot of this one, but I do think the Bison offense not being able to stay on the field is going to eventually wear out the defense. I’ve got the Tigers pulling away late.
Ouachita Baptist 34, Oklahoma Baptist 14
Southern Arkansas (7-2) at Northwestern OSU (0-9)
The Muleriders seemed to kind of dilly-dally around with Southwestern OSU last week, but still got a big win. They can do the same thing again this week and probably still win comfortably. The big numbers to know in this one are Southern Arkansas averages 273 yards per game on the ground and the Rangers give up a league-worst 226 yards per game rushing. I’d also expect the Rangers to be pretty limited on offense against a Mulerider defense that has performed really well this year.
Muleriders roll in Alva.
Southern Arkansas 45, Northwestern OSU 7
Southern Nazarene (4-5) at Arkansas-Monticello (2-7)
The Crimson Storm did a lot of good things on offense against Ouachita last week, but just couldn’t get enough stops against the Tigers. That shouldn’t be the problem on Saturday against a Weevils team that has lost seven straight games and is now on their third quarterback of the season, unless Buddy Taylor is able to return from missing last week’s game. The Weevils are still a dangerous team offensively, if for no other reason than the fact they have some major athletes at receiver who can just run by you. The Weevils have thrown for at least 183 yards in every game except last week’s loss at Oklahoma Baptist due to a driving rain storm. The Crimson Storm defense will have to play well, still, but has an opportunity to get after the quarterback, whoever it is. UAM has given up a league-high 30 sacks this season.
Offensively, if SNU avoids mistakes, they should be able to find consistent success on the ground. The Crimson Storm have never won at Monticello, but the last two trips have both been decided by one score. In a stretch where the Crimson Storm have been doing a lot of firsts, this would be yet another step in the right direction for the SNU program. Obviously, if SNU wants to finish above .500 for the first time in the program’s D2 era, they have to win this one. The Weevils defense hasn’t been atrocious this year, but it hasn’t been great, either. And they didn’t have to face an SNU team clicking on all cylinders on the ground in Bethany last year.
I’d expect the Crimson Storm to get their win at UAM on Saturday.
Southern Nazarene 35, Arkansas-Monticello 17
Henderson State (7-2) at Southwestern OSU (0-9)
The Reddies destroyed Northwestern OSU last week and held the Rangers under 100 yards. I’d expect a similar defensive performance on Saturday against the Bulldogs. The question is how effective the offense will be against the Bulldog defense. SWOSU made things a bit difficult for Southern Arkansas last week, so I’d expect a bit of early struggles for Henderson State before the Reddies pull away comfortably.
Reddies win big on the road.
Henderson State 41, Southwestern OSU 3
East Central (3-6) at No. 4 Harding (9-0)
The Tigers have a defense that ranks in the top half of the league in pretty much every category. Unfortunately, a lot of teams have had good numbers on defense before facing Harding. Afterward? Not so much. I’d expect much of the same here, as the Bisons’ No.1 rushing offense continues to execute with ruthless efficiency.
On the flip side, it will be a major struggle for East Central to score. The Tigers have scored just 29 points combined the last two weeks against two defenses in Southern Nazarene and Arkansas Tech who don’t hold a candle to the defense of Harding.
Bisons roll at home.
Harding 49, East Central 3
Southeastern OSU (4-5) at Arkansas Tech (4-5)
This is probably the most evenly-matched game of the week. The Savage Storm are still licking their wounds from the 55-0 bludgeoning they took at the hands of Harding, while the Wonder Boys have won four of five games coming into this one. Both are very similar in offensive profile: struggle to score and run the ball and heavily reliant on the passing game. Defensively, I think the Savage Storm have the edge, particularly because of their defensive line, but the Wonder Boys have shown a lot of improvement on that side of the ball in this five-game stretch.
I think the winner of this game is going to be the team that’s able to run the ball more effectively. The Savage Storm average just 111 yards per game and Tech averages just a tick over 100. It hasn’t been pretty this year for both teams establishing the run. But in a game that’s this evenly matched, it will play a massive role in deciding who evens their record at 5-5 and who is assured a losing season.
Again, very even matchup from my perspective, but I like what I’ve seen from the Southeastern defense this year (Harding game notwithstanding) more than what I’ve seen from Tech’s. Savage Storm get the road win.
Southeastern OSU 24, Arkansas Tech 17