The Ole Miss Rebels and Boise State Broncos are set to face off as part of the first Thursday night of the 2014 college football season. While many of the games on the schedule will barely feature one team that has a chance to have a big season, both the Rebels and Broncos are looking to do big things this year.
The two teams will try to improve upon similar finishes to the 2013 season. Mississippi went 8-5, losing to nearly all the top teams on the schedule, including Alabama, Auburn, Missouri and Texas A&M. Boise State went 8-5, as well, falling to both of its BCS conference opponents, and three other opponents that reached bowl games.
For the first time in six years, Boise State begins the season unranked. They received 10 votes in the preseason AP Top 25 Poll, and came in at No. 39 in the USA Today Coaches Poll, as head coach Chris Peterson left for Washington.
Even with expectations lowered and a new regime in place, the Broncos are looking to surprise in 2014. The team wants avoid a repeat performance of last year’s opener, which saw Boise State start the season with a 38-6 loss at Washington.
“The way we started out last year wasn’t how we wanted it to be,” Boise State’s Corey Bell said Sunday, via the Idaho Statesman. “It wasn’t even really a close game. So I think with how hungry both teams are going into this — both these teams have a lot to prove — it’s something we’re both excited for and it’s definitely going to be a good opportunity for us to go show just how hard we worked this offseason.”
Boise State will rely on star running back, Jay Ajayi, who rushed for 1,425 yards in 2013. He rushed for at least 80 yards in all but two games.
Despite winning just seven games last regular season and playing in the NCAA’s toughest conference, Ole Miss could have its best season in recent years. While the team lost five games in 2013, two of those defeats came by one score, and another occurred in overtime.
Entering the season at No.18 in the country, the Rebels could perform better in close games. With Bo Wallace at quarterback, Ole Miss has a senior leader who’s entering his third year as the starter. He finished 2013with three touchdowns in the Music City Bowl, and will look to continue that success against Boise State.
Playing at the Georgia Dome and much closer to home should give Ole Miss a significant advantage. All of Boise State’s losses in 2013 came away from their home field.
“Opening up in Atlanta, where we recruit extremely hard, and playing in the Georgia Dome, where every SEC team wants to end their season — I think it’s very important,” Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze said last month. “We get to open college football. All eyes will be on you on that Thursday night against a very good Boise program.”
The betting odds at Las Vegas casinos have the Rebels listed as heavy favorites. Three days before the game, most sportsbooks have Ole Miss giving Boise State 10 points, with the over/under set at 54. In 2013, only two of the Broncos’ games totaled less than 54 points.
Prediction: Ole Miss 37, Boise State 20