It was just a couple of weeks ago that Arkansas’ game at BYU this Saturday at 2:30 p.m. looked like it would a Top 25 battle, maybe even a Top 10 one.

But Arkansas (3-3) has lost three straight games and BYU is coming off a 28-21 loss to Notre Dame in Las Vegas and both teams have fallen out of the polls.

Still Razorback head coach Sam Pittman is excited about the ESPN televised contest in Provo, Utah. 

“We’re excited to go to BYU,”  Pittman said. “Me personally, I’ve never been out there before for a game. I’ve drove by the stadium, but I never have gone up there for a game. I know our team will be excited to go up there and play.”

BYU opened the season with a 50-21 win at South Florida and then edged visiting Baylor 26-20 in two overtimes before losing at Oregon 41-20.

The Cougars bounced back with home wins over Wyoming (38-24) and Utah State (38-26) before falling to the Irish in a neutral site game at the Los Vegas Raiders’ Allegiant Stadium.

Notre Dame, who rushed for 234 yards and led 25-6 midway through the third quarter, had a 496-276 total offensive advantage, a 40:55 to 19:05 tine of possesion edge and ran 73 plays to BYU’s 46 during the contest.

BYU head coach Kelani Sitake has been at the helm of the Cougars since 2016 and is 38-26 in his seven seasons with his team winning 25 of its last 32 games.

“I have high respect for him,” Pittman said. “In the AFCA (American Football Coaches Association), all the coaches are on Zoom, you know, and the things that he talks about when he speaks in the head coaches’ meeting, he’s very, very intelligent. From everything I see, he’s very, very positive, and obviously he has a love for BYU. 

“I know this: For him to get (offensive lineman) Kinglsey (Suamataia) to come back from Oregon to BYU — of course he had to go in the transfer portal — I have high respect for Kingsley’s family, and they love him. I would think that’s enough endorsement there. I do believe…that he’s a fine, fine man and a hell of a football coach.”

BYU was in 11-1 in 2020 with a 49-23 win over the University of Central Florida in the Boca Rotan Bowl while going 10-3 in 2021 and losing 31-28 to UAB in the Independence Bowl.

“They have a really nice team,” Pittman said. “Coach Sitake does a very good job. They play extremely hard. They’ve got a really good quarterback. Good offensive line. Receivers that can win 1-on-1 catches. I really like their linebackers on defense, especially (Max) Tooley and (Logan) Pili. I like those two guys. They are really good players for them. 

“They have a solid D-line and secondary. It’ll be a really nice challenge for us, but it’ll be kind of neat to go out of conference at this point right before the bye and go play. We’re excited to get up there.”

BYU quarterback Jaren Hall (6-1, 205) was just 9 of 17 passing for 120 yards passing with a touchdown – a 53 yard scoring strike to Kody Epps – and an interception against Notre Dame.

But Hall has thrown for 1,558 yards this season while completing 68.6 percent of his passes with 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

Epps (5-11, 185) has caught 25 passes for 295 and five touchdowns while Keanu Hill (6-4, 215) has hauled in 17 receptions for 334 yard and four scores and running back Christopher Brooks (6-1, 230) has rushed for a team high 384 yards and found the end zone five times.

“Well, Hall’s a really good quarterback,” Pittman said.  “I like their offensive line. I think their two tackles are really good. Actually, I think they’re all good, but I like their two tackles. I think they’re really good.

“…We’re going to have to pressure him because I believe he’ll pick us apart if we don’t. We’re going to have to stop the run and then we’ve got to pressure him, because if we don’t, I think he’s really good and a really accurate thrower and his receivers are big. They’re 6-2 and better.”

BYU has won 19 of its last 20 home games with the lone loss during that time being a 26-17 defeat to Boise State on Oct. 9, 2021.

Pittman notes that it is strange for an SEC team to hit the road in the middle of the conference schedule.

“Well, in all the SEC places I’ve been, it’s been abnormal,” Pittman said. “It’s not normal. Normally, it’s an in-conference home game, you know. But it’s the schedule, and we’re going to embrace it. 

“… The great thing is it’s not a night game, it’s their homecoming and all those things. A white out and all that kind of stuff, but it’s not a night game. So we’re not gonna get back at seven or whatever. And we’re off next week. We get a bye week. So if you’re going to have one that goes up to Utah, this is the perfect weekend to have it.”

Arkansas coaches and medical personnel have discussed what playing at a higher elevation entails as Provo is 4,553 feet.

“For us, we’re going to hydrate,” Pittman said. “ We’re going to hydrate as much as possible, and we’re going to watch our kids that have sickle-cell closely. And after that, we’re just going to go play the game.

“… I have heard stories about kids with the sickle cell trait that you really need to watch them. We went over that this morning in our meeting, as well. I’ve heard people try to get used to it and go up a day early and all those type things in talking to some of the coaches that have played them and played up there, or some coaches that coached at BYU. They think as long as we hydrate and watch the kids with the sickle cell, we should be in good shape.”