College Football Betting Preview: BYU Cougars at Ole Miss Rebels

Brigham Young Cougars at Mississippi Rebels
Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford, Mississippi
Saturday, September 3, 2011, 4:45 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Opening Line: BYU -2 1/2
Current Line: BYU -3
Opening Total: 55
Current Total: 57
Opening Money Line: BYU -170 / Ole Miss +150
Current Money Line: BYU -155 / Ole Miss +135

Quarterback Jake Heaps and the BYU Cougars open their first season as an independent on the road at Ole Miss. The Cougars are a 3 point favorite.

BYU is used to playing the Rebels every year, just of the UNLV variety not the Mississippi Rebels. BYU left the Mountain West and is now an independent. BYU has never played Ole Miss in football before.

Last season BYU had a disappointing 7-6 record in their last season in the Mountain West. They did make a bowl game, beating UTEP 52-24 in the New Mexico Bowl under coach Bronco Mendenhall. Mississippi finished 4-8 under coach Houston Nutt.

BYU struggled to move the ball last year averaging 367.2 yards and 26.2 yards a game. Te offense should be better with 10 of 11 starters back from the unit last season.  Last season sophomore quarterback Jake Heaps threw for 2,316 yards, 15 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. He struggled early as a freshman but he grew into the role late in the season. Heaps looks to improve in his second year as a starter. Senior running back J.J. Luigi returns after 178 carries, 917 yards, and 8 touchdowns last year. He was also the team’s second leading receiver with 45 catches, 443 yards, and one touchdown. Senior RB Bryan Kariya returns as well after he had 137 carries, 537 yards, and 6 touchdowns last year along with 21 catches. Sophomore Joshua Quezada had 99 carries, 505 yards, and 5 touchdowns. He also had 8 catches and a touchdown. Sophomore receiver Cody Hoffman had 42 catches, 527 yards, and 7 touchdowns last year. Senior McKay Jacobson had 37 catches, 410 yards, and 1 touchdown catch last year. The line is anchored by pre-season All American Matt Reynolds who could have declared for the NFL draft but returned for his senior year.

BYU gave up 332.7 total yards a game last week and 21.6 points a game last year on defense. The defensive line is huge averaging just under 300 pounds per player, led by Eathyn Manumaleuna. He had 27 tackles and 2.5 sacks last year. The linebackers are very deep led by seniors Jameson Frazier and Jadon Wagner. Wagner was drafted by the CFL in the off-season but chose to return for his senior season.   The secondary must replace 3 of the four starters but will be led by free safety Travis Uale.

Ole Miss finished last season 4-8 after going to back to back Cotton Bowls in the two previous seasons. With a top 20 rushing attack that averaged 208 yards a game, the offense averaged 400 yards a game and 30.6 points a game. Former Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli transferred to Ole Miss for his senior year, but struggled to pick-up the offense. Now sophomore Barry Brunetti, a transfer from West Virginia takes over the offense. He threw 9 passes last year for the Mountaineers in limited action. He got a waiver from the NCAA and can start right away as opposed to sitting out the standard year. Senior running back Brandon Bolden rushed 163 times for 976 yards and 14 touchdowns last year. Bolden also had 32 catches, 344 yards, and 3 touchdowns. Sophomore Jeff Scott and senior Enrique Davis will also get more carries to replace the production from Masoli who was the team’s second leading rusher. Brunetti will also get some carries as he was rated a top 15 dual threat quarterback in high school. Melvin Harris is the top returning receiver but he is listed as doubtful for the BYU game with a back injury. Sophomore Ja-Mes Logan will start at one wide receiver. He had 29 catches, 387 yards, and 2 touchdowns. True freshman Donte Moncrief will start at the other wide receiver. He had 9 touchdowns catches as a senior in high school. Tight end Ferbia Allen and fullback H.R. Greer are mostly used as blockers but could contribute to the offense as well.

The defense struggled last year allowing 402.8 yards a game, including 246.3 passing yards a game. The rebels allowed 35.2 points a game. The defensive line returns 3 starters including senior defensive ends Wayne Dorsey and Kentrell Lockett.  Junior Joel Kight is the only returning starter in the linebacking corps. The secondary is led by senior cornerback Marcus Temple and senior safety Damien Jackson.

Ole Miss was 4-8 against the spread last year including 2-5 at home. The over/under was 8-4 including 5-2 at home. BYU was 8-5 against the spread last year including 3-3 on the road. The over/under was 4-9 in Cougar games last season, including 1-5 on the road. BYU is 5-0 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games and 4-0 in their last 4 as a favorite. Ole Miss is 9-2 ATS in their last 11 non-conference games but are 1-5 in their last 6 overall.

BYU will be much better this year with so many young players getting experience last year. However, traveling cross country to an SEC school, even a rebuilding one like Ole Miss is a tough task. I still like BYU to pull out a close game though.

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