An 8-5 record earns you the distinction of “average” in the SEC, but the Ole Miss Rebels recent recruiting success has them wanting more. The Rebels finished the 2013 regular season with two straight losses and capped off the season with a bowl win. Will that momentum, or lack thereof, carry over?
With the departure of head coach Chris Petersen who went 92-12 over eight years as head coach, the Boise State Broncos will be looking to build the program back up under a new direction. New head coach Bryan Harsin will do whatever it takes to make sure the Broncos build off an eight-win season and don’t slip into irrelevance.
Returning with top quarterback Bo Wallace and top wide out Laquon Treadwell should be enough to say that this team will have no problems offensively, but there is more to a team than the skill positions. While Wallace did pass for 3,346 yards and 18 touchdowns last season, he will have to improve on those numbers with four new starters on his offensive line. It will help to have a guy like 6-foot-2 Treadwell to throw the ball up to, but even a talented receiver like that can’t give Wallace more time in the pocket. The run game returns two solid veterans in I’Tavius Mathers and Jaylen Walton, however.
Boise State’s offense ranked in the top 20 nationally last season in scoring and total yards per game, but it only returns five starters. The starting quarterback job will go to Grant Hedrick who has minimal experience. The senior passed for 1,825 yards and 16 touchdowns with along with a 69 percent completion rate in 2013. Hedrick will have top wide out Matt Miller, 1,140 yards and 12 touchdowns, and Shane Williams-Rhodes, 702 yards and seven touchdowns, to throw to. Running back Jay Ajayi finished the 2013 season with an impressive 1,425 yards and 19 total touchdowns.
Defensively, the Broncos return eight starters from a squad that ranked 50th nationally in scoring defense and 75th nationally in total yards allowed per game. It’s safe to say Boise State will be much improved on this side of the ball. Ole Miss, on the other hand, returns nine starters from 37th best scoring defense in the nation as well as the 38th best defense in terms of yards allowed.
Boise State will travel to the Georgia Dome to take on the Rebels at 8 p.m. EST on Thursday, Aug. 28. The game will be broadcasted on ESPN.
PREDICTION: Boise State 13, Ole Miss 31
Connor Muldowney is a columnist for RantSports.com. Follow him on Twitter @Connormuldowney, “Like” him on Facebook or add him to your network on Google. You can also reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.