Is BYU walking into a buzzsaw at Arkansas?

Well, the Cougars certainly walked into one when they hosted that SEC team a year ago.

Or will BYU’s new defense, and hopefully improving offense, make a difference from last year in their 52-35 loss to the Razorbacks?

Both teams are retooling.  

Who will do it better?

Arkansas is a 10-point favorite Saturday.

Arkansas and BYU seek the same things out of their offenses this week when the Razorbacks host the Cougars in Fayetteville.

Both teams are looking for more explosive plays.

Both have offensive lines that are adjusting to new players placed in different positions and both need more consistency.

Both want to improve their run games, yet know they may have to just go to the air by design.

Arkansas is ranked 82nd in the country in rushing offense, averaging 138.5 yards per game. The Cougars average 79 but average 40 more yards per game passing.

Both are 2-0 after expected wins. Arkansas beat Western Carolina and Kent State, while BYU defeated Sam Houston State and Southern Utah.

So, in a nutshell, this game will be a far better measuring stick of where Arkansas and BYU really are as programs — P5 vs. P5.

Arkansas averaged 42 points in those gimme games. BYU averaged just 27.

Arkansas offensive coordinator Dan Enos replaced Kendal Briles this season and has shuffled in new players along his offensive line. With new clock rules in effect, plus a different coaching style, Enos is not getting as many plays in the Arkansas offense as Briles did a year ago.

But that could change this week against BYU.

Both BYU and Arkansas will likely unveil plays and formations they previously have not shown on film.

Still, both teams hope offensive line run blocking is better this week.

BYU is starting three transfer O linemen and moved veteran center Connor Pay to guard while flipping Kingsley Suamataia to right tackle this season.

Moving big bodies around is an exercise in choreographing hippos — it takes patience and time.

“It’s really a challenge now,” Arkansas tailback AJ Green told the Fayetteville Gazette.

Green led the Razorbacks with 82 rushing yards in last week’s 28-6 win over Kent State. “Obviously, we’ve got new people on the line. We’ve got some people that left. So we’re not all comfortable yet.

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“That’s what we’ve been working on every single day. So the run game, as you can see, is just going to keep getting better from now on. We’re going to learn to execute our plays better.”

Conversely, BYU has a challenge with its zone blocking techniques after a position room shuffle that put Utah transfer Paul Maile at center for Pay, adding Utah State transfer guard Weylin Lapuaho and  Oklahoma State transfer tackle Caleb Etienne.  Suamataia switched to left tackle and Etienne took the right tackle spot.

If it sounds like musical chairs, it certainly is. It takes patience and reps to sync it up. The question is, did the syncing get done in two games against Sam Houston and SUU — or did it not? Is a change in order?

BYU offensive coordinator Aaron Roderick has faith in the personnel the Cougars are placing to protect quarterback Kedon Slovis. He felt confident enough to name freshman LJ Martin as the starting running back in this game. He said Aidan Robbins, the listed starter for the past two games, would see playing time.

Before kickoff Saturday, he is not budging on the same starting offensive line in Week 3.

At least not publicly.

“I like those guys, and I believe in those guys, believe in what we’re doing. I think those guys will play well on Saturday,” Roderick told reporters this week.

Offensive line coach Darrell Funk could throw playing time to Missouri State transfer Ian Fitzgerald or 6-foot-9 Brayden Keim, who saw playing time against SUU when Suamataia briefly left the lineup.

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Funk admitted this week his unit needs to step up and get better fast.

“We’ve gotta be better,” Funk said. “We know that. We are committed to it. Some of the movement stuff and different things we saw in the first two games, we didn’t handle very well. “

As for the Razorbacks, they gave BYU’s defense more than it could handle a year ago in Provo. In particular, QB KJ Jefferson wreaked havoc on the Cougars with five touchdowns in a big win.

BYU’s defense, ranked No. 11 in stopping the run, will have its hands full trying to contain Jefferson. And when the focus is on him, Arkansas might just slip Green and others past Cougar defenders.

This week’s picks

  • Arizona 28, UTEP 10.
  • Kansas 42, Nevada 14.
  • Fresno State 17, Arizona State 14.
  • Kansas State 27, Missouri 24.
  • Iowa State 31, Ohio 3.
  • Utah 37, Weber State 7.
  • Oregon State 34, San Diego State 17.
  • Washington 37, Michigan State 21.
  • Washington State 48, N. Colorado 9.
  • Central Florida 44, Villanova 10.
  • Colorado 38, Colorado State 17.
  • TCU 28, Houston 21.
  • Stanford 24, Sacramento State 10.
  • Oregon 42, Hawaii 27.
  • Texas 52, Wyoming 10.
  • Arkansas 34, BYU 24.
  • Last week: 9-4; overall 23-6 (.793).
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