Matchup: Boise State Broncos vs. #18 Ole Miss Rebels (in Atlanta)
Date/Time: August 28, 8:00 p.m. ET
Spread: Ole Miss -10
The Boise State Broncos and first-year head coach Bryan Harsin will travel to the Georgia Dome for their season opener against the Ole Miss Rebels in a neutral site game that should feature a pro-SEC crowd. The Broncos will face life without former head coach Chris Petersen for the first time since the 2005 season as he accepted the head coaching position at Washington. Harsin was a coach with the Broncos from 2006-10 before two years at Texas as the offensive coordinator and one year at Arkansas State as the head coach. This will be a huge test for Harsin against one of the country’s most talented teams.
The Broncos should not be overwhelmed by the spotlight, as their list of opponents for season openers over the last five seasons is comprised of Oregon, Virginia Tech, Georgia, Michigan State, and Washington. Unfortunately for the Broncos, the trenches will be a major point of emphasis in this game and they are inexperienced on both lines. The offensive line has just two returning starters and the defensive front has one returning starter.
The skill positions are in great hands. Grant Hedrick took over the job full-time after Joe Southwick’s ankle injury and he posted a 69 percent completion rate and a 16/5 TD/INT ratio. Running back Jay Ajayi ran for over 1,400 yards and 18 touchdowns. Wide receivers Matt Miller and Shane Williams-Rhodes combined for 165 receptions, 1,842 yards, and 18 touchdowns. The big questions for this game reside on the offensive line, as the Broncos could be dominated by a tremendously talented Rebels defensive front.
The Ole Miss Rebels have their sights set on big things in Hugh Freeze’s third year at the helm. After inheriting a 2-10 team, the Rebels are 15-11 for Freeze and had a couple of very impressive wins last season including a beatdown of Texas and a home win as a 10-point underdog over LSU. Leading receiver Donte Moncrief is gone, but true sophomore Laquon Treadwell had a great freshman season and Bo Wallace was effective behind a terrific offensive line that included #1 recruit Laremy Tunsil.
Defensively, the Rebels improved from 27.6 points per game in Freeze’s first season to 23.7 last season. After returning 10 starters from the 2012 defense, defensive coordinator Dave Wommack has the luxury of having nine returning starters this season. Top recruits Robert Nkemdiche and Tony Conner played a lot as true freshmen and Freeze has a great mix of exciting young talent and savvy veteran leadership on defense. Freeze had another terrific recruiting class this past offseason and he has shown no hesitation in throwing his young kids right into the fray. The players are very familiar with and have had success in this scheme and further improvement is expected from the defense.
Harsin was 7-5 straight up and 6-6 ATS last season with the Arkansas State Red Wolves in his first season as a coach and he did not coach the bowl game. The Broncos were 56-46-1 ATS under Petersen and 92-13 straight up. Freeze is 2-0 SU/ATS in neutral-site games, both of which were bowl wins and covers.
Free College Football Pick: Ole Miss Rebels
It’s not an easy Week 1 spot for the Broncos to play across the country against a very talented team with a first-year head coach. The Broncos have some players, but there’s a talent and athleticism mismatch in this game. The concerns at the line of scrimmage for the Broncos will be evident here as Hugh Freeze has made it a point to recruit those positions. The Broncos got dominated in the trenches in Week 1 against Washington last season and that could very well be the case again here as they learn a new system and face their first stiff test without Chris Petersen. Be careful taking the Rebels if this number gets above 10, though.
Adam Burke is a freelance writer and amateur handicapper with a knack for finding value through matchup analysis and a deep understanding of the sports betting market. His main area of expertise is baseball, with a background in sabermetrics and advanced statistics. He is the host of The Gridiron Gambling Report and our college football and college basketball BangTheBook.com podcasts on the BlogTalkRadio Network.