GRAHAM: Saturday features Arkansas’ first ranked opponent to start the season since the Hogs played Auburn in the 2014 opener. The big difference between the two scenarios is that the Razorbacks are also ranked and confident.
Cincinnati poses a threat for the Razorbacks in week one, and I’d be extremely nervous if this game served as last season’s opener. However, this Razorback team is ready. Sam Pittman has a full year of coaching on the big stage, accompanied by some big-time wins. Additionally, the Hogs have the gift of an experienced SEC starter at quarterback. KJ Jefferson seems as confident as ever heading into this season. The Razorbacks also have two fantastic coordinators and depth at all positions. There is no doubt in my mind that the Hogs are ready.
The Bearcats and Razorbacks will trade blows during the first half as both teams look to gain traction and truly get rolling. But the second half will feature Arkansas’ ability to sustain those first-half blows. Eventually, the Razorback ground game will take center stage, allowing KJ to connect over the top a few times. The Hogs will be on top when it’s all said and done.
Arkansas 31 - Cincinnati 20
JACOB: TGIF = THANK GOD IT’S FOOTBALL!
This is the most anticipated season opener Arkansas has been apart of in my 30 years. A matchup of two ranked teams with high hopes going into the 2022 season.
Cincinnati is the name and they’re coming off a fantastic College Football Playoff campaign. The Bearcats lost six of their best players to the NFL Draft in the first 109 picks. That includes standout defensive back, Sauce Gardner, who went fourth overall.
On the other hand, Arkansas is looking to open their season with a season opening victory against a top 25 opponent for the first time since 1974 (versus USC 22-7).
KJ Jefferson is looking to build off a solid redshirt sophomore campaign where he accumulated over 3000 yards and 27 touchdowns last season. He will have to get used to a new crop of wideouts but had a whole spring and summer to become accustomed to it.
The way head coach Sam Pittman has talked is that the wide receiver position could be a very dangerous one.
I think the Hogs will pull away in the second half predicated on a heavy run game led by Rocket Sanders and Jefferson.
Defensively, the Hogs will be looking to set the tone early and keep the Bearcats honest on offense. Keep an eye on Drew Sanders and Bumper Pool at linebacker who will be tackling machines.
My specific prediction will be that Jefferson throws and passes for 350 yards and 3 touchdowns. Sanders will put on a show, too, rushing and receiving for a total of 180 yards and a pair of scores.
The defense plays lights out and keeps Cincinnati to only 300 yards of offense and two touchdowns.
Arkansas 35, Cincinnati 20
PORTER: Arkansas establishes the run game early on while capitalizing on long drives that wear the Cincinnati defense down. The Hogs will take some deep shots to keep them guessing all game long.
Defensive coordinatior, Barry Odom will try to confuse the QB with different blitz packages and trying to get pressure on the quarterback. Forcing three and outs plus costly turnovers will be a huge key.
Overall, Cincinnati has too many question marks on both sides of the ball to stay on the field with Arkansas. The Razorbacks will make the Bearcats a one dimensional offense and pull away in the fourth quarter.
Razorbacks 35, Bearcats 17