Ole Miss at California
Saturday, 7:30 pm PT - ESPN
CRIS Opener: Ole Miss -3.5 O/U 72
CRIS Current: Ole Miss -3.5 O/U 71.5
California's defense is not going to be fixed overnight. The bad recruiting, bad coaching, and bad habits from the Sonny Dykes era are bound to linger. The good news is through two games, the Golden Bears are nearly a yard per play better than last season. And while last week's win over FCS Weber State doesn't look all that impressive (the Wildcats rolled up 571 yards), I look more to Week 1's results as Cal went on the road and held North Carolina to less than 5 yards per play. The Tar Heels lost a lot of offensive firepower but they also managed to hang 35 points and 6.5 yards per play the following week against Louisville.
Back in 2014 and 2015, Ole Miss' defense was a top-tier unit as it posted season averages of 4.7 and 4.9 yards per allowed, respectively. They took a big step back last year as teams rolled up over 6 yards per play and the Rebels finished a dismal 5-7. This year's unit has been average thus far as South Alabama and UT-Martin were at times able to move the football will relative ease. Defensive coordinator Wesley McGriff stated heading into this game that stopping the run and shoring up the team's lackluster tackling was a priority.
Pace-wise, neither team is playing at breakneck speed and make no mistake, this is a very rich total. Back in Week 1, the betting markets were all over Cal under the total as the game vs. North Carolina was bet down from 66 to 57. Only the earliest of bettors cashed as the Golden Bears won 35-30. However, here we have an opener of 72 that hasn't moved. That's ironically the average total of Cal's 12 games a season ago; a team that played significantly faster and didn't care one bit about playing defense. I see a bit of value on the under in this matchup.