College football fans will get to see an exciting non-conference matchup in Week 1 as the Cincinnati Bearcats take on the Arkansas Razorbacks in Fayetteville, Arkansas. This game is taking place at Razorback Stadium on Saturday, September 3 at 3:30 p.m. ET.
This matchup will feature two teams who are both looking to build on very successful seasons a year ago. Cincinnati finished last season with a 13-1 record. They fell to Alabama 27-6 in the 2021 Cotton Bowl Classic.
Arkansas finished the previous season with a 9-4 record. They were 4-4 in the SEC.
Cincinnati Bearcats vs. Arkansas Razorbacks Odds, Picks, Predictions
The Arkansas Razorbacks, led by head coach Sam Pittman, hope this is the year they can establish themselves as one of the top contenders in college football.
Last year, the Razorbacks surprised most college football observers by going 9-4, including three wins against top 25 opponents. This marked a huge step forward for a team that was just two years removed from a 2-10 season where they went winless in conference play.
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Leading the charge for the Razorbacks’ offense is dual-threat junior quarterback KJ Jefferson. He had a stellar performance last season. In thirteen games as the starter, Jefferson threw for 2,676 yards and 21 touchdowns with just 4 interceptions, while adding 664 yards and 6 touchdowns on the ground.
Although Jefferson lost his top target, Treylon Burks, to the NFL, he is gaining a very talented transfer in receiver Jadon Haselwood, who spent his first three seasons at Oklahoma.
Furthermore, Jefferson will be boosted by running backs Raheim Sanders and Dominique Johnson, who each ran for over 500 yards last season. This group will be reliant on an offensive line that returns four starters from a unit that performed very well a year ago.
On defense, Arkansas will have to depend on some new faces after losing major contributors along the defensive line (John Ridgeway and Tre Williams) and in the secondary (Montaric Brown, Greg Brooks Jr., and Joe Foucha). This year, the Razorbacks are hoping to get good production from returning linebacker Bumper Pool, as well as defensive backs Hudson Clark and transfer Dwight McGlothern.
Much like Arkansas, the Cincinnati Bearcats massively exceeded expectations a year ago and hope to carry that success over into this season. The Bearcats, led by head coach Luke Fickell, went 13-1 and became the first team from a non-power 5 conference to qualify for the College Football Playoff. Despite advances from other teams, Fickell returns to the Bearcats hoping to build on last season’s efforts.
On offense, the Bearcats will have to replace star quarterback Desmond Ridder, who was picked by the Falcons in this past NFL draft. There is an ongoing battle for the starting job between senior Ben Bryant and sophomore Evan Prater.
The Bearcats lost starting running back Jerome Ford to the NFL as well. Cincinnati will need to rely on a new group of talented running backs, including Ryan Montgomery and transfer Corey Kiner, to replace Ford’s stellar production last season.
Cincinnati will be aided by an offensive line unit that returns all five starters from last year, three of whom were named to the All-AAC first team a year ago.
On defense, the Bearcats lost even more production. Six starters from last year’s defensive unit made their way to the NFL. In the secondary, Cincinnati will have to replace Coby Bryant, Bryan Cook and first round pick Ahmad Gardner.
The Cincinnati defense will be heavily reliant on returning players Arquon Bush and Ja’von Hicks. The front seven will be led by junior linebacker Deshawn Pace, who totaled 9.5 tackles for loss and 4 interceptions a year ago.
I think all signs point to the Arkansas Razorbacks dominating this Week 1 game. The Razorbacks return their star quarterback, while the Bearcats look to replace many key contributors, including quarterback Desmond Ridder.
Arkansas should also be buoyed by a raucous home crowd looking forward to another successful season.
Ultimately, I think this Cincinnati team has too many new players in key positions. My prediction is that the Bearcats will be overwhelmed by an experienced Arkansas team playing at home. I like the Razorbacks to win by at least two scores.
Cincinnati vs. Arkansas Betting Pick: Arkansas -7 | -115 at Fanduel