College Football Picks: BYU Cougars at Nebraska Cornhuskers

Brigham Young Cougars at Nebraska Cornhuskers
Memorial Stadium – Lincoln, Nebraska
Saturday, September 5, 2015, 3:30 pm Eastern, TV: ABC
Opening Line: Nebraska -6
Current Line: Nebraska -7 (+110)
Opening Total: 65
Current Total: 60 1/2
Opening Money Line: Nebraska -230 / BYU +170
Current Money Line: Nebraska -240 / BYU +200

Nebraska is favored against BYU Saturday in Lincoln, Both teams could have multiple players suspended.
Nebraska is favored against BYU Saturday in Lincoln, Both teams could have multiple players suspended.

Two of college football’s traditional powers meet for the first time ever Saturday as the Nebraska Cornhuskers host the Brigham Young University Cougars Saturday. This is a one off meeting and no other games are scheduled between the teams.

Last year, Brigham Young University started off the season 4-0. However, quarterback Taysom Hill broke his leg in the fifth game against Utah State. The Cougars would lose four straight games, but then rebound to win the last 4 games of the regular season. BYU would lose to Memphis in a wild 55-48 shootout in the Miami Beach Bowl in overtime to finish 8-5. The bowl game was marred by an ugly bench clearing brawl at the end of the game. Around 10 players could be suspended at least for a half as a result according to coach Bronco Mendenhall, but the suspensions have not been announced yet.

Nebraska parted ways with head coach Bo Pelini, whose abrasive personality rubbed a lot of people including administrators and fans the wrong way. Longtime Oregon State coach Mike Riley became the new coach in a surprising move. Nebraska started off the season 8-1 but would lose 3 of the last 4 games, including 45-42 to USC in the Holiday Bowl.

BYU went 5-8 ATS and the total was 9-4 last year. Nebraska was 8-4-1 ATS and the total was 8-5.

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Last season, BYU averaged 461 yards per game on offense, including 279 passing yards and 182 rushing yards. BYU averaged 37 points a game. The Cougars were in the top 50 nationally in those categories, and in the top 30 in all except rushing. BYU was -1 in turnovers. Last season, the BYU defense struggled badly to defend the pass. The Cougars allowed 270 passing yards per game and were #115 nationally out of 128 teams in pass defense. The rush defense was #20 nationally at 122 yards per game. Still, it added up to allowing 392 yards per game 28 points per game.

Before the injury Hill was putting up some dark horse Heisman numbers. He completed 66.7% of his passes for 975 yards with 7 touchdowns and 3 interceptions, and also rushed for 460 yards on 87 carries and 8 touchdowns. He returns for his senior season and if healthy will spark the potent offense. Christian Stewart did well as Hill’s replacement last year throwing for  2,621 yards with 25 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, and rushing for 163 yards and 4 touchdowns. He has graduated though. If Hill isn’t healthy, there is a battle for the back-up job. Sophomore McCoy Hill suffered a foot injury in spring practice. Freshman Tanner Mangum is scheduled to return from his LDS mission before fall camp. True freshman Beau Hoge is also in the mix.

Senior running back Jamaal Williams needs just 940 yards to become the all-time leading rusher in BYU history. He suffered a knee injury in early November and missed the rest of the season. Williams had 109 carries for 508 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with 8 catches.  Paul Lasike is now with the Arizona Cardinals after rushing for 364 yards with 7 touchdowns, and making 25 catches with 2 touchdowns. Look for Adam Hine to get most of the back-up carries after rushing for 154 yards and 2 touchdowns, and also catching a touchdown pass.

Receiver Mitch Mathews is back after making 73 catches for 922 yards with 9 touchdowns. Jordan Leslie is now with the Minnesota Vikings after making 55 catches for 779 yards and 5 touchdowns last year. Junior Mitchell Juergens had 28 catches for 424 yards and 4 touchdowns. Devon Blackmon, Colby Pearson, Kurt Henderson, Nick Kurtz and Terenn Houk will also get plenty of targets. Freshman Steven Richards was supposed to be the new tight end but is out for the season with a knee injury. Another tight end Colby Jorgenson is out indefinitely with a neck injury. Look for sophomore Tanner Balderee to start at tight end.

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Nebraska averaged 452 yards per game on offense. The Cornhuskers rushed for 240 yards per game and passed for 212 yards per game. Nebraska scored 38 points a game. The Cornhuskers were #31 or better in all categories except passing. Nebraska was -2 in turnovers. Nebraska allowed 384 total yards per game including 206 passing and 178 rushing yards. The Cornhuskers allowed 26 points per game.

Nebraska has suspension issues of their own as five players, including three defensive players are suspended against BYU.

Quarterback Tommy Armstrong, Jr. threw for 2,695 yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and rushing for 705 yards on 145 carries with six touchdowns. Riley and offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf have told Armstrong to drastically cut down on his rushing attempts so he doesn’t take so many hits.

Running back Ameer Abdullah is now with the Detroit Lions. Abdullah rushed for 1,611 yards with 19 touchdowns, and also had 22 catches for 269 yards and 3 touchdowns. Imani Cross had 75 carries for 384 yards and 5 touchdowns. Terrell Newby had 67 catches for 295 yards and 5 touchdowns, along with 8 touchdowns. Both should split the carries.

Receiver Kenny Bell is now with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He had 47 catches for 788 yardsa nd 6 touchdowns. Jordan Westerkamp had 44 catches for 747 yards and 5 touchdowns. De’Mornay Pierson-El will miss at least two months after undergoing foot surgery. He was supposed to be the featured receiver and is a vital part of the return game as well. He had 23 catches for 321 yards and 4 touchdowns as a freshman last year. Brandon Reilly willa lso get more targets after making six catches last year. Tight end Cethan Carter is one of the suspended players, he had six catches and a touchdown last year.

BYU is 3-8 ATS overall and in games against non-independent teams. Nebraska is 6-1 ATS in non-conference games, 4-1 in conference games, 7-3-1 overall, and 1-3-1 on field turf.

This game is difficult to handicap because of all the suspensions and possible suspensions. Still, I think Nebraska wins at home, in a high scoring game. BYU keeps it close though.

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