NCAA Football Betting Favorite: BYU -3
Bronco Mendenhall and the BYU Cougars were suffering through a terrible season last year at the midway point, but the Cougars bounced back and went 5-1 in their final six games to finish at 7-6. Houston Nutt and the Mississippi Rebels started the season off the wrong way by losing to Jacksonville State, and things really never got any better as the year moved along. The Cougars return quite a few starters, but the Rebels will be starting quite a few inexperienced players. Both teams will be looking to get off to a quick start this Saturday.
BYU returns 15 starters as well as 60 lettermen. The Cougars started slowly last year because they simply couldn’t put up enough points. BYU averaged more than 30 points per game in Mendenhall’s first five years with the team, but the team didn’t score more than 25 points in a single game until November 6 last season. In the team’s final five games last year, they scored 40 or more points four times, so they clearly figured something out. The improved play of quarterback Jake Heaps was a huge reason for that jump in production, and BYU is expecting a lot from Heaps in 2011. BYU returns its top two receivers as well as its top three running backs from last season. The Cougars offensive line has a chance to be great this year. This unit returns four of five starters from last year, and they allowed only four sacks in their last six games in 2010. BYU lost a little more talent on defense, but Mendenhall’s teams have always been solid defensively. The secondary is the biggest concern defensively, since they must replace three very good starters.
Mississippi had gone 9-4 in both 2008 and 2009, but they fell to 4-9 last year. The Rebels managed to win just one game in the SEC. The team returns nine starters on offense, but the quarterback position is a big question mark. Jeremiah Masoli did a nice job under center last year, but Barry Brunetti will be the starter heading into this season. Brunetti will likely be on a short leash, and he could struggle against the tough defenses of the SEC. Brandon Bolden is a solid running back, and the Rebels would be well served to get him the football as much as possible. The best news for the Rebels offensively is that they return all five starters on the offensive line. If this team is going to be competitive, they must get great play up front. What happened to the Rebels defense in 2010? After allowing 17.7 points per game in 2009, they allowed a ridiculous 35.2 points per game last season. Kentrell Lockett is a talented player up front, but he is still recovering from a major knee injury. The Rebels will have three new linebackers this year. This defense must find a way to slow teams down if Mississippi is going to surprise people this year.
BYU started extremely slowly last year, and I wouldn’t be surprised if their offense isn’t a little slow to get going this season. The Rebels have a good running game, but BYU should be stacking the box to stop the run in this one. I think the under is the way to go here.
Free College Football Pick: BYU/Mississippi under 55.5
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