COUGAR TRACKS

BYU Vs. Arkansas: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

Oct 15, 2022, 12:01 AM
BYU vs Arkansas, Preview, Chris Brooks...
BYU running back Chris Brooks should be a big piece to the BYU attack vs Arkansas. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

PROVO, Utah – For the first time, we’re going to see BYU vs Arkansas in football. In the words of Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman, it’s an “abnormal” game for an SEC team to leave their home state for non-conference. Then it gets even weirder when you consider it’s a non-conference game for an SEC team on the road in week seven.

But here we are, a game that features two teams wanting to get back on the winning side of things to kick off the second half of the season.

BYU enters this game outside the Top 25 rankings for the first time since last October when they faced Washington State. Arkansas comes into this matchup 3-3 and on a three-game losing streak.

Both teams will meet again in 2023 when BYU is a member of the Big 12 Conference next year in Fayetteville.

BYU vs. Arkansas

Kickoff: 1:30 p.m. (MT)

TV: ESPN

Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM – Extended Pregame begins at 9 a.m.)

Now it’s time for the 3-2-1 game preview for today’s matchup between BYU and Arkansas.

Three Game Day Thoughts

1. BYU/Arkansas should produce some offensive fireworks

Both of the defenses in this matchup have flaws. BYU’s rush defense is ranked 100th nationally, while Arkansas is 127th in the nation in passing yards allowed. Expect some offensive numbers to put up.

Arkansas is 11th nationally in rushing offense; they will likely stick to their identity and run the ball. Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson is the best signal-caller BYU will face this season. He’s rushed for 358 yards this season, with 231 yards coming after contact.

It will be up to BYU’s defense to get an occasional three-and-out or a takeaway to keep the Hogs from eating up the clock. That’s the only thing that could prevent this game from putting up numbers. But I still expect both teams to score a strong number of points.

2. Curious to see how BYU’s offensive line handles the pressure from Arkansas

Arkansas is going to bring the heat against BYU. Sam Pittman even said they have to pressure Jaren Hall if they want to come away with a win. BYU’s offensive line needs to be ready for the challenge.

The Hogs line up in a 3-3-5 or 4-2-5, which reminds BYU offensive coordinator of the old Rocky Long/Bronco Mendenhall defenses of the past.

BYU’s offensive line was touted as one of the best in the nation coming into the year. However, after giving up nine sacks through six games, no one is mistaking them as one of the best units in the land right now. The talent is there. But they need to be at their best today because Arkansas will bring the pressure. With QB Jaren Hall still recovering from an injury after taking a big hit against Utah State, keeping QB1 upright is critical for BYU’s success for the remainder of the year.

3. BYU fans have a chance to show what their atmosphere is like against an SEC team

Since fans were welcomed back to LaVell Edwards Stadium after the conclusion of the COVID-19 pandemic, the atmosphere at LES created by BYU fans has been excellent. Now they’ve got a chance to show the improved atmosphere against an SEC team.

The last time BYU hosted an SEC squad in Provo was in 2016 against Mississippi State. Even from that game six years ago, BYU has made significant leaps in game day experience. With the game being sold out early in the week, this will be a loud crowd wanting to make an impact from the opening kick.

Two BYU vs Arkansas Questions

1. Will BYU keep it simple at running back?

BYU offensive coordinator said he’s “hopeful” that running back Miles Davis will be able to play today against Arkansas. But, if Davis can’t go, there’s only one route to turn to at running back, and that’s Chris Brooks.

To this point of the season, Brooks has probably underachieved from the lofty expectations that were placed on him coming into the season. But that’s the case with most positions within BYU’s offense this year.

The Arkansas rush defense isn’t spectacular, as they’ve given up 148.3 yards per game. That puts them 76th nationally. It’s time for a big game for Brooks. He hasn’t broken the century mark since the week one win over USF. If Davis is out, the options are dwindling at running back; keep it simple, and run the ball with Brooks.

2. How much time will BYU’s offense have the ball?

BYU currently ranks 118th nationally in time of possession. Last week against Notre Dame, BYU had the ball for less than 20 minutes. You’re not going to win many games with a time of possession that is less than 20 minutes.

Arkansas runs the football, so it’s not out of the realm of possibility for them to drain the clock and play keep away from BYU’s offense. BYU’s defense was aggressive last week, but they had no answer for Notre Dame Michael Mayer, who was an automatic third down converter for the Irish. So if BYU can get a couple of third down stops, a takeaway, or two, that bodes well for the BYU offense.

One score prediction for BYU vs Arkansas

I believe BYU wins this game in a close one. It’s hard to picture BYU winning by a touchdown or more, but four points or less, I see that happening.

Arkansas is the classic opponent that faces an Independent BYU midseason that questions what they are doing playing the Cougars in the thick of their conference season. It’s a bit of an empty-the-tank type of game for Arkansas, as they have a bye next week. But I think BYU’s defense will surprise some people this week. It’s a hunch on my end. BYU showed some progress defensively last week against the Irish, despite being on the field for more than 40 minutes. There is a willingness to bring pressure, do it again against the Hogs.

I’ll also say Puka Nacua is targeted early and often. He has the chance for a big game against a suspect Arkansas secondary.

BYU gets back in the win column to begin the second half of the season.

BYU 33, Arkansas 30

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for KSLsports.com and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow him on Twitter: @Mitch_Harper.

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