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2023-2024 cbhsports Arkansas College Football Preview: Nonconference slate

Image Courtesy: Deseret News

September 2
Western Carolina (Little Rock) (4 PM ET, ESPN+/SECN+)
The Razorbacks should dominate Western Carolina in this game. It may take them awhile to get in sync, but experienced QB KJ Jefferson and talented running back Rocket Sanders should lead Arkansas to their first win of the season in the capital city. Arkansas’ front seven, headed by defensive end Landon Jackson and linebacker Pooh Paul will create havoc in the backfield which should make it a relatively opener for the hogs. Projected Score: Arkansas 42, Western Carolina 14

September 9
Kent State (4 PM ET, SECN)
After a 5-7 (4-4) MAC record last season, the Golden Flashes lost their offensive coordinator, Sean Lewis, to Coach Prime and Colorado. Because they lost their coordinator, every starter left from that side of the ball, it will be hard for them to deal with an Arkansas defense that has its best front seven in a long time. The most talented group on the Kent State offense is the running back room. Historically, Arkansas has not dealt with running games very well so it will be important for the hogs’ defensive talent to step up in this game. The Golden Flashes do not know who their QB is yet between Drew Kargman and Jaren Lewis and are very inexperienced at receiver after losing three of their top targets to bigger schools in the transfer portal. To me, an inexperienced offense will not bode well in Fayetteville. There is not much depth expected on the defensive line but the Kent State linebacker room includes Purdue transfer Khalil Saunders and Missouri transfer Devin Nicholson so the veteran offensive line for the Razorbacks will have to block well against the talented Power 5 transfers in the Golden Flashes front seven. Arkansas should win this game easily in the second half after some first half struggles. Projected Score: Arkansas 45, Kent State 24

September 16
BYU (7:30 PM ET, ESPN2)
Arkansas raced through BYU in Provo 52-35 last October. One would think it will be even easier for the Razorbacks against the Cougars in Fayetteville who lost QB Jaren Hall to graduation. Former USC and West Virginia QB Kedon Slovis comes in as he looks to rejuvenate his career against a steady KJ Jefferson in the middle of September. The hogs’ front seven will have to deal with talented UNLV tailback transfer Aidan Robbins and the secondary will look to stop receiver Keanu Hill, Kody Epps, and other targets. To me, if Arkansas focuses on this game well during the week and do not let the BYU offense have their way on early downs, this game will go like it did last season. KJ Jefferson will look to feast on the BYU defense for the second consecutive year and if he does, the hogs should be looking at a 3-0 record headed to Baton Rouge the next week. Projected Score: Arkansas 31, BYU 21

November 18
Florida International (TBA, TBA)
Grayson James and the FIU passing offense was inconsistent last season. He will have to help them turn around if the Panthers have a shot of upsetting the hogs nearing the end of the season. The FIU offensive line has been good in pass blocking but will have to be better in run blocking after a so-so season in that area. A rough defensive unit for the Panthers returns a lot outside of the secondary as they add Bryant transfer Jack Daly (DT). Arkansas should run through this team because of the depth they have in the backfield with Rocket Sanders, AJ Green, and Rashod Dubinion after FIU gave up 37 points a game a season ago. If Arkansas’ passing game is clicking with an entirely new receiving core at this point in the season, it could be even worse for the Panthers. Upsets happen but this does not look like one in June to me. Projected Score: Arkansas 45, Florida International 10

By Carter Huff

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