Portland State, Arkansas’ season-opening opponent, is not the puffiest of powder puffs.
The Vikings have, for starters, a big-time tight end in 6-3, 245-pound Charlie Taumoepeau. They also have a big-time big guy in 6-10, 410-pound John Krahn. And they return a boatload of starters in a program that is on a similar arc of improvement as Arkansas’ — from 0-11 in 2017, to 4-7 last year to probably above .500 this year. Plus, Portland State boasts a freshman with perhaps the coolest name in all of college football: Ethan Tela-Porter.
But going from potential sleeper in the small college FCS to scoring one of the biggest upsets of the year? That’s just too big of a jump. Yet it’s exactly what Oddshark, the sports betting and odds site, has predicted for the Portland State-Arkansas game on August 31 in Fayetteville:
There’s no getting around it. This is pure, undiluted disrespect.
Especially when considering that Oddshark has other Power 5 programs handily beating their small-school competition in college football’s opening weekend. It has Minnesota winning 37-22.6 over South Dakota State, for instance, and Tennessee taking out Georgia State 33.3 to 13.8. Granted, said disrespect is likely computer-generated. But that doesn’t make it any less of a slap to the faces of Razorback fans.
There are a number of reasons why Arkansas will rout Portland State. They start with the obvious ones, such as the Hogs being much more talented, stronger and (likely) faster at most positions. Plus, the Razorbacks have huge chips on their shoulders after coming off a 2-10 season. Under the leadership of new, better quarterbacks, with an upgraded cast of wide receivers, they are eager to start atoning for last year’s horrible finish in front of a home crowd.
Here are more reasons why Arkansas will beat Portland State on Saturday:
- No team from Portland State’s conference, the Big Sky, has ever beaten an SEC team. Portland State head coach Bruce Barnum has said this road game against Arkansas, along with a game later this season against Boise State, are played for the paychecks (nearly $1 million in total). In fact, Barnum readily admits that college football fans should not brace themselves for an upset in Fayetteville. “That’s not why we’re going,” he said of knocking the Hogs off. “I want our guys to see the pageantry of college football, of the SEC.”
- Portland State played two FBS opponents in 2018. The results were Elephant Man-level ugly. Nevada, which isn’t even a Power 5 school, thrashed the Vikings 72-19. Oregon destroyed them by the score of 62 to 14.
- The Hogs will want to play their potential redshirt freshmen as soon as possible. We know some of the true freshmen like Greg Brooks, Trey Knox, Mataio Soli and Treylon Burks should get major minutes this season. But there is a group of their talented peers about whom the coaches aren’t as sure. The Razorback staff would love to see how the likes of receiver TQ Jackson, quarterback KJ Jefferson and defensive lineman Collin Clay perform under the bright lights, since they have up to four games to play before a redshirt decision has to be made. The quicker Arkansas runs away from Portland State, the quicker these assessments can be made.
- This ain’t the Portland State of 2015. Those Vikings had upset alert written all over them, going 9-3 while beating Washington State on the road before walloping North Texas 66-7 in Texas. The program took a mighty fall in talent and skill after that season, and it’s still recovering from the downturn. It should be noted that during that golden year head coach Bruce Barnum hung out in a Portland bar after home games and bought $1,750 worth of beers for fans who had bothered to attend his team’s contests. (This strikes me as both small-time sad and a tad awesome. One can only imagine the fun Bret Bielema would have had implementing the same policy while frequenting Ben’s Apartment on Dickson Street, or any of the Las Vegas casinos where he met his future wife and played live games.)
- The last time Arkansas lost to an FCS opponent came in 1992 when The Citadel upset the Hogs 10-3 in Fayetteville. That loss cost coach Jack Crowe his job. There’s no way Chad Morris wants to risk facing that kind of ignominy at the start of what’s supposed to be a rebound season. He and his staff will do everything they can to make sure the team’s focused on the task at hand and not looking forward to the following week’s trip to Ole Miss.
UPDATE: In the week leading up to the game, most major sports sites are doing the right thing and predicting an Arkansas win. ESPN, for instance, pegs the Razorbacks’ chances of winning at 97.9%.
In the 21st century, Arkansas has played the part of giant and giant-slayer in big upsets. See the :40 and 3:19 markers below for those low/highlights.
Biggest Upsets in (Recent) College Football History