BYU and Arkansas are both seeking redemption from disappointing losses when the two teams clash on Saturday in Provo, Utah.
The Razorbacks (3-3, 1-3 SEC) are mired in a three-game losing streak after falling 40-17 to Mississippi State last weekend. Arkansas totaled 483 yards and averaged 7.2 yards per play against the Bulldogs but struggled to finish drives. Backup quarterback Malik Hornsby threw for 234 yards in his first career start, but he also threw a pair of costly interceptions.
The Cougars (4-2) fell out of the Top 25 after falling 28-20 to Notre Dame in Las Vegas. BYU trailed by 19 points midway through the third quarter before rallying to cut the deficit to 25-20 early in the fourth. The Cougars had a chance to force overtime, but Lopini Katoa was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 from the Irish 27 on BYU's final drive. BYU totaled only 284 yards on 46 plays against Notre Dane after taking a half to figure out the Irish defense.
This is the first meeting between the two schools. Arkansas is just the second SEC team to travel to LaVell Edwards Stadium. Mississippi State did previously in 2000 and 2016.
Arkansas at BYU
When Arkansas Has the Ball
Getting starting quarterback KJ Jefferson back would give a huge boost to the Razorback offense. Jefferson was sidelined during the loss to Mississippi State with a head injury but resumed practicing with the team this week. When fully healthy, he is an electric playmaker who has helped Arkansas climb the ladder in the SEC.
Jefferson is one of six FBS quarterbacks this season who have tallied at least 1,000 passing yards, nine touchdown passes, 300 rushing yards, and three rushing touchdowns. He ranks fourth in the SEC with 1,408 total yards through five games.
Jefferson's ability to extend plays complements Raheim Sanders as a running threat. Sanders has totaled an SEC-best 695 yards on the ground through six games, averaging a robust 5.6 yards per carry. He also has 185 yards on 14 receptions, making him one of three FBS players with at least 600 rushing yards and 100 receiving yards. Both Sanders and Jefferson have the right skill set to have a big day against a BYU rush defense that has started slowly against opponents in recent weeks.
When BYU Has the Ball
Jaren Hall struggled to get going against Notre Dame. The junior quarterback completed only three passes in the first half and threw an interception on the game's first play. Hall fared a little better in the second half but still finished with only 120 yards and two touchdowns while completing 53 percent of his attempts. Hall's throwing shoulder got banged up against Utah State two weeks ago, and there's no guarantee he will be at full strength this weekend.
BYU will need some production in the run game to take some defensive pressure away from Hall. Christopher Brooks is coming off one of his most productive games of the season. The senior running back churned out 90 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries against Notre Dame. It was the second straight 90-yard game for Brooks after he endured a three-game mini-slump in his production. The Cougars may utilize Puka Nacua on jet sweeps to further bolster the run attack.
Nacua and Gunner Romney played together for the first time this season against the Irish after both wide receivers battled injuries. Their presence gives Hall plenty of reliable options if he isn't limited in his throwing. Kody Epps is fast emerging as a game-changer at the position. Epps tallied 100 yards and a touchdown on just four catches last Saturday against Notre Dame.
Both BYU and Arkansas have starting quarterbacks nursing injuries, so the direction this game goes on Saturday will be unpredictable. If Hall and Jefferson are both able to go and are both near full strength, it will offer a fun duel between a pair of dynamic signal-callers. Neither team is inspiring in stopping the run, so the team with the more dominant backfield will get the edge here. That isn't good news for BYU in its quest to reclaim its Top 25 status.
Prediction: Arkansas 28, BYU 24
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– Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a sports journalist based in Utah. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.
*Price as of publication.