Cincinnati vs. Arkansas Odds & Picks: Bet the Bearcats in Saturday’s Top-25 Matchup
Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images. Pictured: Cincinnati running back Ryan Montgomery (left) and cornerback Justin Harris (right).
- Luke Fickell and the Cincinnati Bearcats travel to Fayetteville to take on Sam Pittman and the Arkansas Razorbacks in a top-25 college football showdown.
- The Razorbacks enter as favorites of just under a touchdown, but our Collin Wilson sees betting value on the Bearcats.
- Read on for Wilson's full breakdown and top pick for Cincinnati vs. Arkansas below.
Cincinnati vs. Arkansas Odds
-110o / -110u
-110o / -110u
One of the three top-25 matchups in Week 1 includes a trip to Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium for an opener between a rising Arkansas group and defending College Football Playoff qualifier Cincinnati.
Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman went trophy hunting during the 2021 season, collecting every piece of hardware from The Boot to The Battle Line Trophy, plus a win in the Outback Bowl over Penn State.
Pittman retains both coordinators and expects to be a contender in the SEC while making the general public plenty of cheddar.
Reporter: "You're 16-6 against the spread so I wanted to say thank you."
Sam Pittman: "Go Hogs"
This interaction at SEC Media Day 😂 pic.twitter.com/7qD9K0QUQD
— Action Network (@ActionNetworkHQ) July 20, 2022
Cincinnati comes off the most successful season of any Group of Five team in College Football Playoff history. The Bearcats were undressed by Alabama in the Cotton Bowl semifinal, failing to score a touchdown against the Crimson Tide.
The toughest test for head coach Luke Fickell comes this season with a depleted defense and the loss of quarterback Desmond Ridder.
With the loss of a four-year starter at quarterback, Cincinnati will look internally and within the portal for answers.
Ben Bryant returns to Cincinnati after starting for Eastern Michigan last season. The junior led the Eagles with 14 touchdowns to seven interceptions despite getting sacked 43 times.
The Cincinnati offensive line returns in full — a welcome scenario for Bryant after seeing 120 pressures in 411 dropbacks last season.
Bryant has competed with sophomore Evan Prater, but Fickell has been mum on who the starter will be against Arkansas. Both players may be asked to replicate Ridder’s scrambling ability.
Ben Bryant has wheels too pic.twitter.com/lq5Ij9DtKu
— Barstool Cincinnati (@UCBarstool) November 29, 2019
While the quarterback and running back position looks for answers in Fayetteville, the Bearcats defense returns just 46% of experience, per TARP.
The heaviest of those losses come in the secondary after Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant tallied 15 passes defensed last season. Cincinnati does return nickel Arquon Bush, but the Razorbacks are sure to target two new cornerbacks and a safety in the passing game.
Every program in college football knows what the game plan for Arkansas will be; the question is if opposing defenses can stop it.
Quarterback KJ Jefferson returns for a fourth season, leading one of the most physical rushing attacks in the nation. Four starters from the offensive line return, including Outland Trophy candidate Ricky Stromberg at center.
A stable of running backs returns with Raheim “Rocket” Sanders, AJ Green and Dominique Johnson. Although Johnson will sit the first two razorback games due to injury, there are new running backs waiting in the wings to join the rotation.
The biggest question is who will fill the shoes of wide receiver Treylon Burks, who departed early for the NFL. Burks logged 88 targets last season, well above the 35 thrown to leading returner Warren Thompson.
Reports out of fall camp indicate the loss of Burks may be minimal. Oklahoma transfer Jadon Haselwood and Georgia transfer Matt Landers both came in to Fayetteville and are expected to complete the starting lineup with Thompson.
All three receivers have gotten praise from Pittman and coordinator Kendal Briles.
— Jonathan Acosta (@_jacosta) August 9, 2022
The biggest question on defense is replicating the pressure from the three-man front, as nose tackle John Ridgeway and edge Tre Williams depart.
Coordinator Barry Odom has elected to move from a 3-3-5 to a 4-2-5 to continue putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks. LSU transfer Landon Jackson joins a defensive front light on experience among the two deep in the depth chart.
Linebacker Bumper Pool and safety Jalen Catalon both return to stabilize a back seven that will continue to limit explosive plays.
The Razorbacks finished 11th in Defensive Finishing Drives last season, a result of Odom electing to give up yards in the middle of the field with a stiffer plan when opponents get to scoring position.
Cincinnati vs. Arkansas Betting Pick
The biggest question for Arkansas this season will be Jefferson in passing downs and which receiver will be targeted.
Burks was heavily used in the red zone and on third downs last season, leaving a void for Jefferson on money downs. Haselwood practiced this week with a green jersey, signifying no contact for the transfer.
The Bearcats were excellent in forcing third downs last season, ending with a top-30 rank in Standard Downs Success Rate. There’s no doubt the Arkansas run game will look to bully a Cincinnati defensive front that finished just inside the top 50 in Line Yards.
More questions surround an Arkansas defense that found a way to put pressure on opposing quarterbacks with just three players. With a defensive scheme change to a four-man front, the typical dime defense that was excellent in preventing explosive plays has one less player.
Cincy running back Ryan Montgomery averaged more yards after contact than Jerome Ford, racking up nine explosive runs in just 46 attempts. With an offensive line at full strength, Cincinnati may have long, sustained drives and multiple trips inside the Arkansas 40-yard line.
The Action Network projection makes the Hogs -3.5, indicating inflation on the current market for the home team.
While Pittman has led Arkansas from the pit of college football to a golden age of relevance, there are a number of unanswered questions that include defensive line pressure and identifying the main third-down and red-zone weapon.