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Ben Hicks Way Ahead of Nick Starkel in Odds to Start for Razorbacks in Week 1

Nick Starkel throwing a pass for Texas A&M
Texas A&M transfer Nick Starkel has work to do if he's going to win the starting position for the Razorbacks in Week 1. Photo by Twitter user @nwademgaz.
  • Transfers will play a big role in Arkansas’ 2019 season, especially at quarterback
  • Ben Hicks has experience with head coach Chad Morris at SMU, but Nick Starkel has experience in the gruelling SEC
  • Whoever wins has to start fast, with Ole Miss and Texas A&M scheduled in the first five weeks

Chad Morris had to do something after going 2-10 in year one at Arkansas. The Razorback program, after all, is not completely void of expectations after going to bowl games in eight of the 11 seasons before 2017. His 2019 recruiting class was impressive, but it’s no guarantee to fix things as quickly as this fall.

Thus, Morris went to the transfer portal. He added help all over the field, but no position as much as quarterback, where he broke the mold by bringing in two players. Those two transfers, Ben Hicks from SMU and Nick Starkel from Texas A&M, will spend August battling for playing time.

The latest NCAAF prop wager favors Hicks to win the starting spot for Arkansas’ first game, a lay-up against Portland State on Aug. 31.

Razorbacks Starting QB Odds (2019)

Who will be Arkansas’ starting quarterback for game 1? Odds
Ben Hicks -200
Nick Starkel +150

Both bring useful advantages from their previous schools, but the odds favor Hicks for one clear reason.

Hicks Reunited with Morris

Hicks left SMU to rejoin Morris after playing his freshman and sophomore seasons for him with the Mustangs. Hicks had an up-and-down freshman season but really shined as a sophomore in 2017, going 276-for-472 (58.5 percent) for 3,569 yards and 33 touchdowns.

Starkel got his game reps in handling the second half of the 2017 Aggie season, but the target drastically changed going into 2018. Texas A&M went from Kevin Sumlin’s spread to Jimbo Fisher’s pro-style passing structure, and Kellen Mond took to the system best. The move to Arkansas puts Starkel in a familiar system against a schedule he should know well, and  Morris may see value in the fact that Starkel still has two years of eligibility, as a junior to Hicks’ senior.

The reason to be skeptical of Starkel comes in picking apart the second half of that 2017 season. Fifty-one percent of his yards came in two games: lighting up New Mexico and in a wild Belk Bowl game against Wake Forest that the Aggies lost; those were also the only two games in which he completed more than 60 percent of his passes. Starkel threw three interceptions in a loss to LSU that season.

Final Verdict

For me, this seemed like it was always the answer: Hicks handles things in 2019 and heads on his way, handing it over to Starkel for 2020. (Why Starkel chose Arkansas with two years of eligibility left, knowing this set of circumstances was in place, is what truly interests me.)

All that’s left to determine is the individual bettor’s opportunity-cost threshold. Is the payout at -200 worth it, in the event of a freak injury or surprise suspension that keeps Hicks out at the beginning, for what should otherwise be one the safer bets on this prop?

That’s up to you, but the odds are pretty indicative of my thoughts on the situation.

This isn’t a matter of Hicks being a better quarterback than Starkel; I’m not commenting on that. Arkansas is trying to find the best possible starter for 2019, and it’s hard to believe Hicks’ previous knowledge of the Chad Morris system won’t play a significant role here.

Pick: Hicks (-200)

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