Big 12 Previews

BYU vs. Arkansas: Preview, Prediction and Game Odds

Here is everything you need to know ahead of the matchup between the BYU Cougars and the Arkansas Razorbacks.

GAME INFO

Saturday, September 16; 6:30 p.m. (CT); Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium, Fayetteville, Ark.

TV: ESPN2

Radio: KSL News Radio 102.7 FM/1160 AM

2023 Records: BYU, 2-0; Arkansas, 2-0

Rankings: BYU NR; Arkansas RV

Series History: Arkansas, 1-0

Last Meeting: Arkansas 52, BYU 35 (2022)

Line: Arkansas (-8.0)

Fun Fact: When BYU and Arkansas inked this deal the Cougars were still an independent. Now it’s a Power 5 showdown for the Razorbacks.

 

KEY PLAYERS

BYU

WR ISAAC REX

The Cougars have feasted the past two games, which has given players a chance to build roles in the offense. Rex could be one of those players that quarterback Kedon Slovis relies on as the season goes on. Against Southern Utah, he caught four passes for 112 yards and a touchdown. He’s in the fifth year of his college career and he’s never caught more than 37 passes in a season, which was in 2020. Coming off a 22-catch season in 2022, Rex would love to be a more critical part of the passing game. Games like the one against Southern Utah help build trust with a new quarterback.

S ETHAN SLADE

The sophomore is coming off a seven-tackle game against Southern Utah, one that included four solo tackles. He’s already in the third year of his college career, but this could be the year he carves out a productive role with the Cougars. Last year he had just 17 total tackles. He’s halfway there after two games. Now the key is to produce against tougher competition, and he’ll get that shot on Saturday against the Razorbacks.

 

ARKANSAS

QB KJ JEFFERSON

The Razorbacks have a quarterback in his fifth year of college football and that’s a luxury these days. Jefferson is coming off a solid game against Kent State, where he passed for 136 and rushed for another 48. Arkansas has not played Power 5 competition to this point, but all you have to do is fire up the film from the last two seasons to know how dangerous he is. In each of his last two seasons, he’s thrown for at least 2,600 yards and rushed for at least 600 yards.

LB JAHEIM THOMAS

He had a big game against Kent State last week — 12 tackles, 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss. The junior is hoping to build on what was a productive 2022, during which he had 70 total tackles, with 25 solo stops. He also had two sacks. He should be one of the key defenders for the Razorbacks when they go for their third win of the season against BYU.

 

KEY STORYLINES

BYU

So here’s the test right? The Cougars beat Sam Houston, a team in its first year in FBS, and then Southern Utah, which is in FCS. They put up big numbers against the Thunderbirds, as expected. Now, they have to face a Power 5 team from the nation’s biggest conference and the Cougars need a better showing than last season at LaVell Edwards, when they lost by 17. Razorback Stadium is a notoriously hard place to play for non-SEC teams. BYU needs its quarterback, Kedon Slovis, to have the kind of game on Saturday he had against Southern Utah, when he threw for four touchdowns and rushed for another.

ARKANSAS

Sam Pittman may not have been your first choice to be Arkansas’ head coach, but since he took over the job the Razorbacks have steadily gotten more competitive. They’re 21-17 under Pittman in his fourth season and have won both bowl games. The offense is built around Jefferson, but running back AJ Green is worth a watch, too. Arkansas builds around its offensive line which was Pittman’s specialty as an assistant coach. Trajan Jeffcoat is a Razorback to watch on the pass rush, as he had 1.5 sacks against Kent State.

 

PREDICTION: ARKANSAS 44, BYU 36

I’ve been to games at Razorback Stadium. I can vouch for how hard it is to play there — and that’s when the Razorbacks were struggling. They’re not struggling anymore. This is a big test game for BYU. The Cougars don’t have to win it, but they need to not get blown out of the stadium.

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