Mississippi State Bulldogs (2-3 SU, 2-3 ATS) vs. BYU Cougars (3-3 SU, 5-1 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date/Time: Friday, October 14, 2016 at 10:15PM EST
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium, Provo, Utah
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: MSST +7/BYU -7
Over/Under Total: 52.5
The Mississippi State Bulldogs come to Provo to face the BYU Cougars on Friday in what looks like a game that will provide some good entertainment. It’s somewhat of a bizarre matchup between these two teams who last played back in 2001. Mississippi State is struggling to find their way in the post-Dak Prescott era and fell to 2-3 on Saturday in a 38-14 loss to Auburn. BYU, meanwhile, scored a huge win in beating Michigan State in East Lansing, 38-14, in a big win for a team that has already experienced a ton on the young season.
There’s something about BYU where they’re just hard to figure out, while being excessively exciting to watch. Through five games this season, no margin had been greater than three points with every game coming down to some late twist in the storyline. After beating Arizona, they lost three consecutive squeakers to Utah, UCLA, and West Virginia. They were able to nudge Toledo, 55-53 on a last-second FG, before scoring the big win against Michigan State, a win that should bolster the spirits moving forward for the Kalani Sitake-led Cougars. In their first non-competitive game of the year, they picked a good time for it and they came out on the right side.
Against Michigan State, BYU let the Spartans score on their first drive, before mostly holding them down for the rest of the game. Still, the Cougars’ offense wasn’t cooperating with the defense early, scoring a lone field goal in the first half of the game. But in the second half, the Cougars couldn’t be stopped, with Taysom Hill and running back Jamaal Williams taking over.
Against the Spartans in a road game, the Cougars got good performances from some of their biggest stars. Williams looks to be kicking his game into another gear after gaining 618 yards in his last three games. He’s been chewing up opposing defenses and could easily go over 1000 yards on the season this week. He has 9 touchdowns in the last three games. Hill was efficient behind center for the Cougars and has been more on-point the last few games, following a rough first month to the season. He also ran in a score on Saturday. Also contributing in the aerial attack were some of the usual suspects for BYU—ball-catchers like Nick Kurtz, Mitchell Juergens, Jonah Trinnman, and Colby Pearson. New coordinator Ty Detmer was certainly happy with what he saw against Michigan State. What would really let this offense come together would be a bit more effervescence in the passing game.
The close games the Cougars have had this season seem to have resonated on both sides of the ball, especially the defense. They have been leaky against the pass at times in the first 6 games of the season and not always terribly clutch, especially with the three defeats in a row. Injuries have robbed them of some of their expected venom. But other than allowing a lot of points to West Virginia and Toledo, they held Arizona to 16, Utah to 20, UCLA to 17, and then a home Spartans team to 14. So more often than not, they’ve been fairly stingy.
This is not a vintage Mississippi State bunch. That much was suspected before the season began and confirmed when they lost as 28-point favorites to South Alabama to open the season. They beat a down South Carolina bunch, lost to LSU, beat Massachusetts, before losing by 24 to Auburn at home on Saturday in a miserable display. They were manhandled across all areas, as the defense had little answer for the Auburn run-game. It started well, with the Bulldogs’ Kivon Coman picking off a Sean White pass to give Miss St. great field position, but a missed FG took the wind out of their sails and they wouldn’t hit the scoreboard until it was 35-0 Tigers.
A somewhat milquetoast Mississippi State offense is led by sophomore QB Nick Fitzgerald. A quarterback will catch a lot of flack, but attributing the Bulldogs problems to Fitzgerald would not be capturing the truth. He has thrown only two picks and has 390 yards running. Brandon Holloway and Ashton Shumpert add production on the ground. With five touchdowns, the key skill player on this offense in classy receiver Fred Ross. Donald Gray has also been productive, but this is a team that lost a lot of firepower from last season. They put up 47 against UMass, but have not exceeded 20 points in their four other games.
The Mississippi State defense looks weary and porous, not a good sign as they face a road game completely out of their element in Provo. They’ve given up 73 points in their last two games and haven’t been particularly strong against either the pass of the run. Granted, there have been times where they haven’t received the best support from the other side of the ball. But still, they’ve been a good tick or two off of what was anticipated. And one bristles to think what the red-hot Jamaal Williams has in store for this “D.”
On one hand, Mississippi is an SEC team, but who has seen the more-difficult schedule this season? The nod clearly goes to BYU with three games over Pac-12 teams, West Virginia, and Michigan State on the schedule already. At the same time, BYU just has such a knack for close games other than last week’s win over a nose-diving Michigan State team. And just as one can imagine BYU drubbing a rebuilding Bulldogs’ squad, one can just as easily envision Mississippi State hanging in there with a chance to win. Still, I think the Cougars hit another gear last week and will take another step forward with a good win over Mississippi St.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the BYU Cougars minus 7 points.
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