BYU Cougars @ Ole Miss Rebels Football Preview
BYU travels to Oxford, Mississippi, to take on the Ole Miss Rebels in a matchup of two teams that are trending in entirely different directions. The Cougars posted a 5-1 record in the second half of their 2010 campaign, with rising star quarterback Jake Heaps hitting his stride. Over those final six games, Heaps threw for 1,340 yards and 14 touchdowns. That offense returns 10 starters and is implementing more diversity under new offensive coordinator Brandon Doman. Add to all that a new independent status with a refreshed schedule and a season of games on ESPN, and the folks in Provo are feeling good.
The Rebels, on the other hand, lost six of their last seven games and posted a miserable 1-7 conference record during the failed Jeremiah Masoli experiment. Masoli’s replacement is yet to be named as none in a trio of contenders has laid his claim to the starting job. But a quarterback battle is only a part of the problems the Rebels faced in the offseason. Last year’s sack leader, D.T. Shackelford, is sidelined with an ACL injury that could keep him out all season—bad news for one of the worst pass defenses in 2010 that surrendered just under 250 passing yards per game. For a defense in need of playmakers, the dismissal of linebacker Clarence Jackson and lineman Delvin Jones following alcohol-related charges certainly doesn’t help in the playmaking or morale departments either.
On the field, Ole Miss will need experience to translate to success; otherwise, the Rebels will have just as many questions in pass defense as they did last season. BYU will roll out a couple of SEC-type receivers in 6’4” Cody Hoffman and 6’3” Ross Apo, who are keen on having plenty of success with Jake Heaps slinging the pigskin. The Rebels will need Kentrell Lockett, a talented senior pass rusher granted another year of eligibility after an injury last year, to make a dent in BYU’s experienced offensive line. Without such an effort, it will likely be a long day for the Rebel secondary.
The key matchup of the game, however, will likely be the Rebel rushing attack versus the BYU front seven. Ole Miss boasted a top-20 rushing offense last season (208 ypg). It returns plenty of beef and experience on the offensive line, along with running backs Brandon Bolden (976 yards last season), Jeff Scott (429 yards), and Enrique Davis (337 yards). Mississippi needs rushing production as they break in either Barry Brunetti or Randall Mackey at quarterback. They will battle a BYU rush defense that gave up just 68 rushing yards per game in the final eight games of last season, which came after head coach Bronco Mendenhall resumed control of the defense. The outcome of this matchup will likely determine the end result.
By: Brett Hein
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