The start of a new football season brings hope. Before the games start, before the Friday night lights, before the cheering crowds, there’s silence. There’s a completely level playing field, despite what the preseason polls might say.
That all changes after the first game. If you lose the first game, it’s hard to reset. You have an uphill battle to fight for the rest of the season. Especially in football. With only one game per week, your chances are much lower at winning conference with a loss.
The only way Harding football can win conference now is if they win out the regular season. Even then, it is still not a guarantee. Since Henderson State beat the Bisons and were also picked third in preseason polls, chances of them losing are unlikely. Arkansas Tech just beat out No. 1 seed Southern Arkansas by a touchdown.
This is where things get complicated, and this is why we love college football. Who will win and who will lose just depends on the day.
With both the top two teams losing in week one, this opens the door for nearly everyone else. Ouachita, Southeastern Oklahoma State and Arkansas Tech all have chances that weren’t there before with their rankings.
Beating the favorite to win the conference in the opening game, on your home field, is a big achievement when you are picked sixth overall, and Arkansas Tech did just that. Tech plays Henderson State tomorrow, and this will be a true test of character. This is when we will see if beating Southern Arkansas was just a fluke or if they are really out to win conference.
However, don’t count Harding out just yet. The Bisons play Southern Arkansas on Saturday, and will be hungry for the win. Last year, with their best record ever, they had multiple comebacks and wins that seemed unlikely at the time.
The Bisons have held the same record from 2012 to 2014 of 9-2. In 2015 they went 7-4, but all the games lost were within seven points or less. Of course, 2016 marked the best year in the program’s history with 13-1.
All this to say, the Bisons know how to come back. Just because they lost the first game does not mean they are out of the race for conference or regionals.
Regionally-speaking, the Bisons are in the same position as Emporia State of the Mid-America Intercollegiate Athletics Association (MIAA) conference and Minnesota Duluth of the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference (NSIC). Both teams were picked second within their conferences and lost their first games.
The fact that the other regions have similar results across the board, with higher picked teams losing, means that Harding is still in a good position.