Two teams coming off program-changing seasons will meet at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on Saturday afternoon. No. 19 Arkansas is a 6.5-point home favorite over No. 23 Cincinnati, fresh off a trip to the College Football Playoff in 2021.
The two teams will kick off at 3:30 p.m. ET on ESPN.
Cincinnati were one of the best stories in college football last season, but it’s hard to imagine the Bearcats coming close to replicating that magic without quarterback Desmond Ridder, who is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons after four years as a starter at Nippert Stadium.
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Ridder may be gone, but the good news for the Bearcats is the entire offensive line will return to take on an Arkansas defense that ranked 56th in yards per play and 31st in defensive drive efficiency in 2021, per Football Outsiders. Whether the Razorbacks will be able to maintain that level without John Ridgeway and Tre Williams remains to be seen, but they should be able to contain this offense as it works in a new quarterback (either EMU transfer Ben Bryant or sophomore Evan Prater).
Cincinnati’s offensive attack will be a bit of a guessing game in the post-Ridder era, but there is no secret about what Arkansas will want to do in this contest. The Razorbacks are big and nasty in the trenches and will want to lean on one of the nation’s most physical rushing attacks to wear defenses down. Quarterback K.J. Jefferson is back in the saddle for his fourth season and will play a key part in that running game behind this experienced O-Line.
Arkansas did lose star receiver Treylon Burks to the NFL, but will try and replace his production with Oklahoma transfer Jadon Haselwood and Georgia departee Matt Landers. The job for Jefferson, Haselwood and Landers would have been a lot tougher last season against Sauce Gardner and Coby Bryant, but those two are now playing cornerback in the NFL, which should make it a lot easier to move the ball in the air against the BearCats.
At some point this season Arkansas will need to figure out the passing attack, but the easiest way to alleviate pressure in the air is to wear teams down on the ground. The Hogs should be able to do that against a defense that has a returning production rating of just 46%.
Betting on Sports?
This line opened at Arkansas -7 but has since moved towards Cincinnati, but that shift has opened up a buying opportunity on the Razorbacks at home. Not only do the Hogs have a big edge in the trenches, but there’s a chance that this Cincinnati offense flattens out without Ridder and opens the door for a Razorback rout.
Cincinnati vs. Arkansas pick:
Arkansas -6.5 (-110 BetMGM)
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