ESPN is giving BYU just a 20% to pull of the upset.
BYU Football hasn't been exactly impressing anyone so far this season. Up to this point, they have looked more like the projected four to five-win team that 'experts' predicted before the season as opposed to the seven or eight-win team that many fans, including myself hoped for.
While many BYU fans may be solely focused on the Cougars, what they may not have noticed is that teams including Texas Tech, TCU, Oklahoma State, Iowa State, and yes Arkansas have also not met optimistic goals early in the season.
Now here's the thing. I live in Arkansas. I'm an Arkansas fan, except when the Hogs play BYU. I know this team and know their weaknesses. I don't expect any coaches or players to read this, but if they do, I have some answers on how to beat the Hogs.
Don't Try to Beat KJ Jefferson
Arkansas Quarterback KJ Jefferson is a monster. This was evident last year as he pinballed his way through BYU defenders over and over. You can't beat KJ Jefferson. He is bigger, stronger, and smarter than anything BYU's defense can put against him.
Accepting this and focusing on other areas is crucial. The second that players start to play out of position or get upset they missed a tackle on him, the game is over. Jefferson is elite at finding weaknesses and exposing them. If BYU stays home and plays defense how they should, those weaknesses will be limited and Jefferson will struggle to get going.
Understand That Arkansas is Utah 2.0
I apologize ahead for putting all of you through this, but you know how Utah often finds itself trailing in a game and then somehow comes back and wins? Yeah, Arkansas does that as well. Again, as an Arkansas fan 364 days a year, I love it. As a BYU fan on Saturday, the Cougars need to be careful.
Don't be shocked at all if BYU is up 10+ points in the third quarter before the Hogs come roaring back. With the humidity, loud crowd, and deeper roster advantages, a double digit lead can easily turn to a deficit.
It doesn't take much to get that stadium going, and if you've never experienced 'Calling the Hogs', let me tell you, it makes the ROC's 'Turbulence' look like a high school game. The key for BYU is to keep the foot on the accelerator. Even if up 10 points late in the 3rd quarter, BYU needs to continue to try to score. Don't adjust the game plan unless there is less than five minutes left and the Cougars are up two scores.
Utilize the Entire Field in the Pass Game
Arkansas is faster than BYU. I've noticed early that Kedon Slovis tends to throw to the sideline. While the sideline certainly will be available against Arkansas' sub-par secondary, their speed will make up for it if they start to cheat to the outside.
Slovis needs to keep the defense honest by targeting the middle of field more than he has up to this point in the season. This will keep the sidelines open and let the receivers have an efficient game.
Don't Go For it on 4th Down
Remember how I said that Arkansas is Utah 2.0? They are also really good off of turnovers. BYU hasn't been great the last few seasons on 4th down and one missed conversion could be a huge momentum swing that never swings back to the Cougars.
Unless it is a 4th and short at the 35-yard line, punt the ball, or kick the field goal! Arkansas has a stout rush defense and their pass rush can cause havoc even on a quick 4th down pass. Last year, the Hogs were one of the top teams in the nation in sacks and tackles for loss. Don't give them that opportunity!
Draw the Game Out
This may be more of a concidence, but BYU tends to play well late, and Arkansas tends to play better in the morning. I can't think of too many great games the Hogs have had that go late into the night. On the contrary, BYU seems to get better the later it goes.
There are ways to draw out the game. Whether it is using more play clock after an incomplete pass, or using all three first-half timeouts, the later this game goes, the better I like BYU's chances.
Force Arkansas to Load the Box
Up to this point, this article has covered only strategies that BYU can control. They can control their pressure on Jefferson, continue to play their game, utilize the whole field in the passing game, punt on 4th down, and slow the game down; however, this last tip is not completely in BYU's control.
Arkansas will have to load the box if BYU can establish the run game or the inside screen game. Once that happens, BYU can expose its secondary. The secondary is the only weakness of Arkansas' defense. If BYU doesn't pose a threat inside the hashes, their linebackers will start to move back a bit and help in pass coverage. If this happens, BYU will not have success.
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I'm predicting a close, low-scoring game on Saturday. With both defenses allowing less than ten points per game, and both offenses struggling to score at ease, the game could come down to whether BYU is able to control these six areas. If they do, I like their chances.