BYU vs Arkansas Odds & Prediction: Will Defenses Step Up?
Justin Ford/Getty Images. Pictured: Arkansas quarterback KJ Jefferson.
BYU vs Arkansas Odds
A battle of two undefeated teams is set to take place in Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday.
BYU has won six in a row dating back to a road victory over Boise State in November 2022. However, plenty has changed from a personnel perspective in Provo, from a new quarterback to a much-needed shift at defensive coordinator.
A trip to Arkansas serves as the final nonconference clash before the Cougars head to Lawrence for their first-ever Big 12 Conference game against Kansas.
Arkansas shares similarities with its opponent, as new coordinators and a slew of transfer portal players populate the defensive side of the ball.
The Hogs won their first two games by a combined score of 84-19, but struggles persist in many different forms, including injuries and inefficiency. The Razorbacks will host BYU before a night game at LSU kicks off their conference slate.
Arkansas covered this game last season, thanks to 38 points in the second and third quarters.
Both the Cougars and Razorbacks look to stay undefeated before entering tough conference slates, so a win here puts either team closer to bowl season.
The changes on both sides of the ball have proven to be positive in victories over Southern Utah and Sam Houston.
Pitt quarterback transfer Kedon Slovis took charge in Week 2, throwing four touchdowns while evading 15 pressures. Two passing touchdowns came from a play-action pass, a staple in coordinator Aaron Roderick's offense.
A trio of targets leads the way with a touchdown apiece for Chase Roberts, Darius Lassiter and Isaac Rex. All three targets average a minimum of 2.2 yards per route run, supplying BYU with a rank of 26th in standard downs explosives.
This back side post from Kedon Slovis to Isaac Rex is pure poetry in motion. pic.twitter.com/QqAOKbdBY8
— Benjamin Criddle (@CriddleBenjamin) September 9, 2023
BYU has been more apt to drop back this season, as the offense has shifted to a pass on 54% of snaps.
In nine trips across the 40-yard line, BYU has averaged 5.4 points per scoring opportunity. While the offense has been scheming through 11 and 12 personnel, it's the defense that caught the attention of the Arkansas coaching staff.
Coordinator Jay Hill was the winningest coach in Weber State history before making the move to Provo. The defense has responded with a top-20 rank in tackling, hard stops and Quality Drives.
The Cougars have allowed just two touchdowns this season, but now must take on their biggest challenge in terms of size and physicality.
Arkansas has two box scores in the books, both leaving a first impression of a blowout. The victory over Kent State reads 28-6, but the Hogs struggled on offense.
New offensive coordinator Dan Enos is working to get a solid running game in the absence of star running back Raheim "Rocket" Sanders.
The third-year running back was dealing with swelling in the knee before triggering a turf toe injury late last week. Sanders' availability for the LSU game is in question, giving Arkansas just four more quarters to find a viable solution in terms of running the ball.
Outside of quarterback KJ Jefferson, the Razorbacks struggled to find consistency on the ground with AJ Green and Rashod Dubinion.
The defense has thrived under new coordinator Travis Williams. A fresh approach to aggressiveness put Kent State and Western Carolina consistently behind the line of scrimmage. Arkansas now comes in top-10 in Defensive Havoc, supported by a rank of third in the nation in tackles for loss per game.
Cincinnati transfer linebacker Jaheim Thomas has been the biggest contributor, racking up 12 tackles and five pressures. Antonio Grier's picks-six was a much-needed boost to the scoreboard against Kent State.
First play as a Razorback for Antonio Grier is a 25-yard pick-six. pic.twitter.com/8kwcu3r2Wm
— Mason Choate (@ChoateMason) September 9, 2023
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how BYU and Arkansas match up statistically:
BYU Offense vs. Arkansas Defense
Arkansas Offense vs. BYU Defense
Pace of Play / Other
|Special Teams SP+||60||41|
|Seconds per Play||29.6 (109)||29.5 (107)|
|Rush Rate||46.7% (101)||64.8% (13)|
BYU vs Arkansas
Betting Pick & Prediction
Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman had plenty to say about where the Hogs are on the offensive side of the ball, stressing that the offensive line and tight ends must block better on the edge and downfield. There were consistent issues with ballcarriers and linemen not being on the same page in zone- and man-blocking schemes.
Drops became an issue for two of the top targets on the team in Andrew Armstrong and Jaedon Wilson. Pittman stated the goal is to always have the ability to run the ball, and an emphasis to be more vocal with pre-snap assignments will be put on preseason All-American center Beaux Limmer.
BYU head coach Kilani Sitake indicated wide receiver Kody Epps will be available to play against the Razorbacks. Epps accounted for six touchdowns a season ago, generating the third-most targets while averaging an explosive 2.9 yards per route run.
The Arkansas secondary has been solid in coverage through two games but has not seen a challenging combination like Slovis and Epps.
The Action Network projection favors Arkansas by 11 points, a number that has taken BYU steam for the majority of the week.
With "Rocket" Sanders out and the Razorbacks looking for an identity on the ground, there's fire behind the smoke that has moved the total down from 52 through the key number of 48.
One key statement from Pittman leads an investor to believe that the under still has value.
BYU runs an odd front, noted by Pittman as three under and three deep — and Arkansas has yet to play or practice against that front. Look for Hill to call a deep multiple-personnel game that will keep the Hogs guessing.
Points will certainly be at a premium with these aggressive defenses.