BY DUDLEY E. DAWSON

 Cincinnati, Arkansas’ season-opening opponent in 2022, has the Razorback program’s full attention unlike Rice did last year.

 Arkansas handled Rice, a game that was drawfed by the fact that old Southwest Conference rival Texas was due in Fayetteville the next weekend.

Cincinnati, one of the four teams in the College Football Playoff last season, was 13-0 in the regular season in 2021 and is 44-7 in games since 2018.

“They would do well in the SEC, I know that,” Pittman said at his Monday press confence. “It should have helped us in the summer, should have helped us in fall camp understanding that we’re not playing a team that’s way inferior to us. We’re playing a team that’s every bit as good as we are. So, I think that’s helped us. I hope it has.”

Arkansas struggled with Rice before winning 38-17 and then routed Texas 40-21 the following week.

“We tried to downplay the noise of Texas as much as we could last year,” Pittman said. “We knew that we had to beat Rice and obviously didn’t do a very good job of that, the first half especially. This year we know nobody’s said a word about South Carolina.”

Pittman is anxious to see how things go early and used an interesting analogy to talk about readiness to play.

“I think the first couple of series are going to be really important to figure out kind of what they’re bringing to the party,” Pittman said. “ Some guys bring ice tea, and some guys bring liquor.”

Both teams have been practicing since early August.

“Game week’s finally here,” Pittman said. “I certainly have great respect for the University of Cincinnati. They’re a really good football team, really good team. Well-coached and play well in really all aspects – offense, defense, and they’ve got a good special teams. Certainly glad it’s at home.” 

Cincinnati head coach Luke Fickell, who will hold his pre-Arkansas press conference on Tuesday, is leading his team against an SEC team for the third straight season.

Alabama downed the Bearcats 27-6 in the 2022 Cotton Bowl, which served as one of the CFP’s semifinal games.

Georgia downed Cincinnati 24-21 in the 2021 Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.

“The last two SEC teams we’ve played, it hasn’t been as good,” Fickell said on a recent ESPN appearance. “For us and our guys and this entire program, they know what to expect.”

Cincinnati is a member of the American Athletic Conference and has accepted a bid to join the Big 12 in 2023.

The Bearcats spent their  person camp at Higher Ground Conference RetreatCenter in West Harrison, Ind.

“I wish I could tell you (what this team is) right now,” Fickell said. “ Our whole idea is just be us. I’d like to tell you what us really is, but that’s what these next days really are.

… We go out to a camp for about 20 days and that’s when we develop what that us really really looks like.”

The Bearcats, 6-36 all-time against SEC foes, had nine players taken in the NFL draft and lost over 30 players off its roster.

Pittman isn’t falling into a trap of thinking the Razorbacks will have an easy win because of that mass exodus of talent.

“They’re a really good team,” Pittman said. “They really are. Only team to beat Notre Dame last year. I know people say they lost a lot of players. Well they played a whole bunch of them last year because they were so far ahead in a lot of their games that they got experience with their other guys. And then they brought in some nice transfers as well.”

Fickell was named the American Football Coaches Association’s National  Coach of the Year last season with Pittman also being one of the five finalists.

“He’s got them playing with great confidence,” Pittman said. “You can tell, just his demeanor, the way he leads the team, they would have a lot of confidence to them. Nobody in college football has done what they did, so he’s done a great job. He must really like it there because I’m sure he’s had other opportunities to leave, but he hasn’t, so he must really like it there.”

Cincinnati has not announced a starter at quarterback to replace Desmond Ridder, who as drafted fourth overall in the 2022 NFL draft by the Atlanta Falcons.

 The choice is between 2021 back up Evan Prater and Ben Bryant, a former Ridder back up who played at Eastern Michigan last season after three years at Cincy.

Prater, a running threat, was only 5 of 11 passing for 36 yards last season with two touchdowns and one interception.

 Bryant threw for 3,121 yards with  14 touchdowns and 7 interceptions last season at Eastern Michigan.

“They had a running quarterback, a throwing quarterback, in one guy last year,” Pittman said of Ridder. “ So you can kind of see what they would do with a runner, because they ran him a lot, and then you kind of see the route trees and all these things.”