Wyoming Cowboys vs. BYU Cougars Preview

Barnburner?  Pah!

Saturday's matchup between Wyoming and BYU will highlight the offensive struggles that both teams have experienced this year so far.  While BYU had a fairly impressive win against Washington at the beginning of this year, they have fizzled to a large degree and have only beaten one other team in that time (SDSU).  Wyoming is not sitting any better.  Their only wins come against FCS opponent Southern Utah and a decent Toledo team.  Both teams reside at the bottom of nearly all offensive statistics, though Wyoming is a few spots lower than BYU.

Wyoming has arguably had the tougher schedule, and they played very strong against a non-depleted Air Force team.  BYU did not play so well against Air Force in comparison.  BYU has also lost against Utah State, which seems quite comparable to Toledo.  BYU had a better showing against TCU than Wyoming did, but that comparison is like judging the merits of "Plan 9 from Outer Space" vs. "Gigli".

Defense has been among the brighter spots for both teams, though neither have a defense that can be considered top notch for either the conference or national rankings.  Wyoming has a strong secondary and linebacker corps, while they struggle at the defensive line.  BYU seems to have a solid front line, but there are questions with the linebackers and secondary.  Both teams are able to stop opposing teams fairly regularly, but in most games the offense does not have enough production to keep their respective defenses off the field.

The offenses for both teams are unproductive, to say the least.  BYU has a stronger running game than UW has, but both are fairly poor when going through the air.  BYU does have the advantage here, as UW's run defense is just not that great due to the undersized defensive line that cannot seem to crowd running lanes well.  UW will likely bring some linebackers and perhaps a safety now and then to help with the run game in more obvious running situations.  So far the passing productivity for Wyoming has been well below expectations for this year, but on the other hand the defenses that UW has played against have been pretty solid units (TCU, Utah, AFA, Texas, and BSU).  If BYU's secondary is suspect, we might see some actual production through the air from UW.

Wyoming still has fits and starts with its running game.  For the first half of the Utah game, Wyoming was able to actually run the ball more than a few yards.  Utah made some changes for the second half, and shut a lot of that production down.  It wasn't until the fourth quarter that UW actually got on the board.  One area that UW really improved upon in the Utah game was in turnovers.  UW allowed none against a highly ranked Utah, and picked off three passes from Jordan Wynn.  +3 turnovers for a game against Utah is something to certainly build upon.  UW also has been very good in terms of penalties, and has played very disciplined football from that standpoint.  BYU has not been outstanding, and penalties could provide a decisive edge in this game.

This game means a lot for both teams.  If either team loses, then they have to win out the rest of the season to make a bowl game.  BYU is at a distinct disadvantage because their final game of the year is against Utah at Rice-Eccles.  Wyoming is then playing against the rest of the bottom half of the conference, with SDSU and CSU at Laramie this year.  This game will likely be played hard by both teams, but for very different reasons.  BYU does not want to have to win against Utah to become bowl eligible, and UW wants to win against a BYU team that has shut them out for the past two years.

It is honestly hard to say which way this game goes.  UW has had a brutal schedule so far, and is likely a tougher and more skilled team because of it.  Their morale has never really sunk, and they are working hard in every practice and have never given up in a game.  BYU on the other hand has dropped games they were not supposed to against middle of the road teams.  Bronco has taken over the defense, and considering how well that group has played in the past two games, it is obviously a good thing (for BYU that is).

The game is being played in Provo, and the spread favors BYU by 10 ½ points.  Most pundits are pointing towards this being a low scoring affair, and one in which Wyoming can beat the spread.  But if Wyoming actually has some offensive production against a pretty mediocre BYU team, then there is the chance for them to pull out the win.  It is going to be interesting to watch, as it could easily go either way.  But do not expect a high scoring affair.  We are no longer in the heyday of the wacky WAC, where final scores were often in the 48-35 range.  Instead we are looking at a defensive struggle where special teams will make a huge difference.

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