Arkansas vs. Cincinnati is one of the most highly-anticipated matchups of Week 1 across college football.

Arkansas opens 2022 eager to improve on last year’s 9-4 record. The Bearcats, meanwhile, are coming off the first College Football Playoff appearance in Group of 5 history.

Arkansas vs. Cincinnati preview

Arkansas is fresh off a win over Penn State in the Outback Bowl and returns several key players. QB KJ Jefferson will look to take a step forward into the ranks of elite quarterbacks around the country. In 2021, Jefferson finished with 2,676 yards, 21 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. The dual-threat signal caller also added 664 yards and 6 touchdowns as a runner.

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The biggest question mark for the Hogs’ offense comes at the receiver position, where they’ll have to replace superstar Treylon Burks, who was chosen in the first round of the 2022 NFL Draft by the Tennessee Titans.

Incumbent Warren Thompson, Oklahoma transfer Jadon Haselwood and former Toledo (and Georgia) WR Matt Landers figure to be the guys in line to receive most of the targets from Jefferson in the receiving corps this fall.

On defense, the Hogs return LB Bumper Pool, a tackling machine. Star safety Jalen Catalon is back from an injury suffered early in 2021 and Alabama transfer Drew Sanders figures to provide some edge rushing abilities for DC Barry Odom. Nick Saban recently said that Sanders probably would have been a starter at Alabama this fall if he’d stayed in Tuscaloosa.

Cincinnati, meanwhile, is a team in transition. The Bearcats haven’t revealed who their starting quarterback will be against Arkansas. The decision will come down to Ben Bryant or Evan Prater, who are listed as co-starters on the Week 1 depth chart.

Desmond Ridder, last year’s star QB, is now a member of the Atlanta Falcons. Elite CB Sauce Gardner is now with the New York Jets after going in the top 10 of the 2022 NFL Draft.

Still, this is a team with plenty of talent. In fact, the Bearcats check in at No. 23 in the preseason poll, just a few spots behind No. 19 Arkansas. Thus, this will be a game neither team can take lightly. Whichever team controls the second half will likely exit the contest with a 1-0 record intact. It should be an exciting afternoon in Fayetteville.

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The game kicks off at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time and can be seen on ESPN.

Arkansas vs. Cincinnati prediction

The Bearcats are the class of the Group of 5, but they don’t make environments like Razorback Stadium in the AAC. The Hogs show some rust early as new players work their way into the system, but pull away in the second half for a convincing victory over Luke Fickell’s talented Cincinnati program.

Prediction: Arkansas 31, Cincinnati 20