BYU Cougars (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) vs. Nebraska Cornhuskers (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
College Football Week 1
Date and Time: Saturday, September 5, 2015 at 3:30PM EST
Where: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
by Scott, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Brigham Young +6.5/NEB -6.5
Over/Under Total: 64.5
The BYU Cougars come into Lincoln to face the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Saturday in week 1 of the 2015 college football season. Both squads have big plans for 2015. Nebraska will feature a new-look team under first-year head coach Mike Riley, with a more pro-style offense and a less-volatile presence roaming he sidelines. Meanwhile, BYU returns healthy QB Taysom Hill, one of the better dual-threat quarterbacks in the nation. Last season, he was taking this Cougars team places before breaking his leg in the teams fifth game.
Hill can run and keeps opposing defenses on their toes. And before going down in 14, the BYU star looked like he was really making strides with his throwing prowess. More of that has been seen this summer and it would really add a new dimension to this offense. It would just help if the BYU offense could rely a bit less on Hill, particularly in preserving him for the long-haul by allowing him to run less.
Look for Cougars running back Jamaal Williams to chip in more with the ground-game. Hes another guy who saw his 2014 season cut short and he returns healthy for this season. Wide receiver Mitch Matthews should be a handful this season with Hill back in the fold. The offensive line looks to have a few porous areas, though it is anchored by a top center in Tejan Koroma. Under Cougars head coach Bronco Mendenhall, the line usually finds its way, though a still-green group could suffer against the Huskers, whose defense excels in the trenches.
And what Huskers team can we expect to see in 2015? The hiring of Mike Riley raised some eyebrows. Its hard to imagine the high-flying show he featured at Oregon State in Lincoln. We all have an image in our heads of what a Nebraska team is supposed to look like and that image might get flipped on its head this season. But for as much as people were bemused by the hire, Riley is a cerebral leader and his calmness on the sidelines might be a nice switch in gears from the constantly-foaming Pelini.
Riley will try to get Cornhuskers QB Tommy Armstrong, Jr. to be more of a passer who relies less on his legs. And while Armstrong, Jr. isnt Rileys guy and changing his style could present issues, a wait-and-see approach is recommended. Riley isnt going to crowbar something into where it doesnt belong, as he will be thoughtful in how he implements the changes to the teams offensive complexion. Even so, Riley doesnt have a deep repertoire of skill guys to orchestrate his typical offense. Losing RB Ameer Abdullah was huge and Amani Cross and Terrell Newby will need to surprise. WR DeMornay Pierson-El was injured in practice and will be out, leaving it up to the duo of walk-on Brandon Reilly and Jordan Westercamp. You figure some young recruits could step up, but its a largely-unproven offense. And the line returns a fantastic left tackle in Alex Lewis, but some of the other spots will occupied by youngsters and that could result
in a wide range of possibilities.
Defensively for Nebraska, there are also some issues, though probably less question marks than on offense. The back-seven, in particular, is a potential source for some problems, but they actually look pretty formidable up-front. Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine are effective run-stoppers and end Greg McMullen can get after the quarterback. Linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey returns from injury and gives this second level a nice boost. And the D also features two pretty good corners in Daniel Davie and Byerson Cockrell. But those guys are going to need to play well and stay healthy, with depth appearing to be an issue with linebackers and in the secondary.
BYU is facing a transition on defense, with Mendenhall taking over the reigns after a ragged 2014. Their bowl game loss to Memphis, 55-48, was the last straw. But there were other awful showings throughout the season where they gave up gobs of points33 to low-octane Virginia, 35 to Utah State, 31 to UCF, 42 to Nevada, and 55 to Boise State. Maybe having Hill in there gives the defense a better chance, as they were more-respectable before he got hurt. But theyre still a group that appears to be exploitable, even by a new-look Cornhuskers offense.
Playing at Lincoln is a tough season-opener for any team. But BYU is a different squad with Hill in there and the defense should be a bit better with it becoming more of an urgent point of emphasis in the offseason. We shouldnt place too much stock in what we saw from BYU in the last 2/3 of 2014. And its not like Nebraska wont find itself struggling at times defensively. Hill is the best player on the field. This looks like a tough game to call and I think if Nebraska wins, they will struggle to do so.
Scott’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Im betting on the BYU Cougars plus 6.5 points.