BYU vs. Arkansas: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction

Sep 15, 2023, 7:29 PM | Updated: 7:30 pm

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – BYU vs Arkansas is taking place for only the second meeting all-time. The first was last season, a 52-35 victory for the Hogs in Provo.

BYU is returning to Fayetteville to conclude a two-game home-and-home series.

Saturday’s matchup is the last non-conference tilt before BYU’s inaugural Big 12 schedule kicks off next week.

BYU and Arkansas come into this game with 2-0 records. Both are looking to avoid their first loss of the season.

BYU vs Arkansas

Location: Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium

Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. (MDT)


Radio: KSL NewsRadio (102.7 FM, 1160 AM — Extended pregame begins at Noon from Fayetteville)

It’s time for the 3-2-1 game preview for BYU’s week three matchup against Arkansas.

Three Game Day Thoughts

1. BYU can win this game

BYU comes into this game as an underdog. But don’t be surprised if BYU comes away victorious in this game. The Cougars have a history in these rematch spots.

Five years ago, as a three-touchdown underdog against Wisconsin, one year after losing by five touchdowns to the Badgers, BYU upset a Wisconsin team with College Football Playoff aspirations.

Last year, BYU took down No. 9 Baylor in Provo, less than a year after the Bears dominated Kalani Sitake’s squad in Waco.

Arkansas is a beatable team. On paper, their personnel seems better than BYU’s, but the Razorbacks sometimes struggled with Kent State. BYU has a chance to be in this game in the fourth quarter.

2. The offensive line needs to explode off the ball

BYU’s offensive line has struggled through the first two weeks. It’s one of the reasons BYU is already switching up its starting running back, moving from Aidan Robbins to true freshman LJ Martin.

BYU’s offensive line has been good in pass protection, not giving up a sack this season. But in run blocking, they’ve underwhelmed, and opposing defenses have stonewalled BYU’s ground attack.

BYU has no time to wait against Arkansas as the Razorbacks have eight players along their defensive line that they believe can create havoc. The Hogs will bring a lot of four-man pressure to try and create havoc on Slovis.

If BYU struggles in the first quarter and can’t explode off the line of scrimmage early, it will be a long night for the Cougars.

3. BYU defense needs at least two takeaways

BYU has forced five turnovers in the first two games of the season. Four of those were interceptions.

If BYU upsets Arkansas, they will need at least two takeaways. One needs to set up a short field for the BYU offense, or it results in a touchdown from the defense.

Arkansas QB KJ Jefferson has a lot on his shoulders with star running back “Rocket” Sanders out again with an injury. If they continue to be stout in run defense (10th nationally), BYU’s defense could make Jefferson one-dimensional, creating better odds at some takeaways.

BYU’s cornerbacks lead the way as Jakob Robinson has emerged as a lockdown player, along with Weber State transfers Eddie Heckard and Kamden Garrett.

Two BYU vs Arkansas Questions

1. Will BYU make additional changes in the starting lineup?

It’s go time for BYU’s season. The Cougars are about to embark on a schedule that features 10 consecutive Power Five opponents. They’ve never had that before. The time is now for BYU to start finding consistency.

BYU’s urgency was highlighted by offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick announcing that freshman LJ Martin will be the starter in the backfield.

What other changes does Roderick or even Jay Hill make?

BYU’s offensive line has underperformed, as noted above. Roderick said he’s going with the same five this week, but is it a quick leash?

Then, on the defensive side, BYU continues to search for answers at safety after the season-ending injury to Micah Harper. Last week, Malik Moore gave up a touchdown over the top to begin the third quarter.

Jay Hill trotted out Ethan Slade and Tanner Wall to begin last week against Southern Utah. BYU’s personnel will be an interesting angle going into this one.

Staying with the personnel theme, Kody Epps will be one to monitor. He’s been close the past two weeks with his hamstring injury. Roderick said he had a setback this week but remains “day-to-day.” How Epps runs in pregame warmups could determine if he plays or not. If he can go, he would give Kedon Slovis another pass catcher to attack an aggressive Arkansas defense.

2. Which Kedon Slovis will we see?

The first two weeks have been an interesting ride for QB Kedon Slovis. Week one against Sam Houston was an underwhelming performance where he passed for 145 yards and completed only 60% of his passes.

Last week, Slovis had a bounce-back performance, throwing 348 yards and four touchdown passes. The former Pitt and USC QB averaged more than 10 yards per pass attempt last week, attempting only 32 passes.

Which performance does Slovis deliver on Saturday night?

BYU doesn’t need to have Slovis put up the numbers that he had against Southern Utah last week. But he can’t perform the way he did against Sam Houston.

BYU can’t be one-dimensional against Arkansas if they want to come away with an upset. So the tone-setters have to be the ground attack, and then Slovis will be able to keep Arkansas honest with the passing game.

This is an opportunity for Slovis to make inroads on building up his NFL draft resume again—a big stage for him and this BYU offense to perform at a high level.

One Score Prediction for BYU vs Arkansas

I’m expecting a low-scoring game on Saturday.

The strength of both teams right now is on the defensive side. So, I’m calling for a defensive battle. BYU will make it interesting in the fourth quarter, but the Hogs hold off BYU, led by KJ Jefferson.

Arkansas 22, BYU 16

Mitch Harper is a BYU Insider for and host of the Cougar Tracks Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and Cougar Sports Saturday (Saturday from 12–3 p.m.) on KSL Newsradio. Follow Mitch’s coverage of BYU in the Big 12 Conference on X and Threads: @Mitch_Harper.

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BYU vs. Arkansas: Game Day Preview Plus Score Prediction