BYU Cougars (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS) at Ole Miss Rebels (0-0 SU, 0-0 ATS)
Saturday September 3rd, 2011. 4:45 PM EST, College Football Week 1
Vaught Hemingway Stadium Oxford, M.S.
By Jay Horne, College Football Handicapper of Predictem.com
Point Spread: BYU -2.5/Ole Miss +2.5
Over/Under Total: 54.5
Just two years ago, the Ole Miss Rebels were among the most talented teams in the SEC reaching a ranking as high as 4th in the country. However, the Rebels lost a ton of talent after the 2009 season and many referred to 2010 campaign as the ever dreaded “rebuilding” year for Head Coach Houston Nutt. Instead, the season was much worse as the Rebels became a bottom dweller in the SEC finishing with a mark of 1-7 in conference play. This year the Rebels will try to get back on the path of success in what will be a pivotal year for the future of Houston Nutt in Oxford.
The Rebels will be tested right out of the gates when they host the Brigham Young Cougars at home in the season opener. This will be the first ever meeting between the two schools on the gridiron. BYU is a team that is in an eerie similar situation as their counterpart. The Cougars reached a minimum 10 wins each year from 2006 to 2009 before taking a huge step back last year with a mark of 7-6. This season BYU looks to rebound with a new slate of opponents on the schedule thanks to breaking away from the Mountain West and becoming an Independent school.
BYU took a step back offensively last season averaging just 26 points per game. However, the Cougars return 10 starters from the 2010 unit and should be greatly improved overall. Quarterback Jake Heaps performed solid in his freshman crusade passing for 2,316 yards with 15 touchdowns and 9 picks. Heaps had some really good outings last year despite inconsistent numbers. Therefore I would expect Heaps to have a better season moving forward. Leading wide receiver Cody Hoffman returns to the team after racking up 42 passes for 527 yards and 7 scores last year which should aid in the passing game. More importantly the offense returns senior J.J Luigi. Luigi is coming off a season in which he racked up 917 yards on the ground with 9 scores. Additionally, Luigi contributed out of the backfield catching 45 passes for 423 yards. Luigi will be a big part of the offense this season and will be a guy to watch as the season progresses.
Defensively, the Cougars were a solid group in 2010 holding opponents to 330 yards per game. The BYU defense ranked 24th overall in the country and should be every bit as good this year as well with the returning talent on that side of the ball. However, historically under Coach Bronco Mendenhall the defense has suffered rocky starts in each season. The Cougars were 2-5 in their first 7 games of 2010. Through that stretch, the defense gave up nearly 30 points per game. The defense needs to be better prepared this season to avoid any further lackluster starts.
The Rebels have a new offensive coordinator at the helm in David Lee who is known for rushing favored offenses. Ole Miss has plenty of question marks at the quarterback position and at wide receiver. Randall Mackey appears to be the leader for the starting quarterback role. WR Melvin Harris caught 30 passes for 408 yards last year, but hopes to play a bigger role in the offense. Otherwise, the offense will likely keep a lot of focus on moving the football on the ground. Tailback Brandon Bolden may be the best player on the team. Bolden posted 973 yards and 14 touchdowns last season while also catching 32 passes for 344 yards. Ole Miss will return experience among the offensive line, therefore look for the offense to feature Bolden as their primary weapon to move the chains.
Defensively the Rebels have a lot of question marks as well. Defensive end Kentrell Lockett will be the best of the group, but behind the defensive line lies a troubled secondary. Ole Miss ranked a miserable 103rd last season against the pass giving up 246 yards per game. Not to mention the SEC is not a very pass happy offensive conference from top to bottom like the Pac 12 or Big 12. Still, the Rebels were horrendous against the pass last season and have yet to find any answers entering this season. If there is not improvement in the defensive secondary, it would be hard for the Rebels to see much improvement in 2011 especially considering how difficult the SEC West will be.
Jay’s Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: BYU has the edge on both sides of the ball, but their history of starting slow scares me on the road in Oxford. However, I do believe there is value in the “under.” I believe both offenses may be a bit conservative with their known troubles at the quarterback position especially early in the game. Therefore, the under 54.5 is the way to go. Good Luck!
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