BYU is beginning its football independence in 2011 with a game, appropriately enough, against the Ole Miss Rebels. And Ole Miss coach Houston Nutt certainly has his own independent streaks.
The Cougars have a two-quarterback system, with Jake Heaps set to take the lion's share of the snaps and Riley Nelson expected to contribute this season. It would help BYU if Heaps could build on his strong finish to 2010, when he threw 13 touchdowns to two interceptions over his final five games. 2010's leading rusher JJ Di Luigi is also back, and BYU returns a defense that stiffened as the year wore on, allowing more than 17 points just once after the beginning of November.
Mississippi, on the other hand, looks like one of the SEC's bottom-dwellers. Jeremiah Masoli is gone after a one-year experiment didn't pan out, and signal-calling duties appear to have fallen to Barry Brunetti for now. He'll have talent to work with on offense in Brandon Bolden, Jeff Scott, Melvin Harris, and Ja-Mes Logan, but the Rebels must replace four of their five leading tacklers from 2010, with only Damien Jackson returning to Oxford.
Game date, time: 4:45 p.m. Eastern, Saturday, Sept. 3
Location: Vaught-Hemingway Stadium, Oxford
TV channel: ESPN/ESPN3
Spread: BYU by 3.