Who: Fresno State (4-2, 1-1 MWC) @ Wyoming (4-1, 0-1 MWC)
When: Saturday, Oct 16, 12:30PM PT
Where: War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, WY (Capacity 29,181)
How to Watch: Game will be broadcast on Fox Sports 2 (if you can find it)
Two teams looking to bounce back from their first conference losses will meet up Saturday afternoon in Laramie. Fresno State is coming off a bye week after an upset loss at Hawaii, while Wyoming was stymied by Air Force last weekend. Now both want a win if they want to make a run at their respective division crowns. Let’s do a quick dive into the matchup, and see how the two teams compare.
After two close calls early in the season, Wyoming fell 24-14 to Air Force in their first conference game of the year. Brad Roberts rushed for 140 yards, and Haaziq Daniels has continued his surprising year by completing 7 passes for 110 yards and a touchdown to get past the Cowboys. Wyoming was able to tie the game up at 14 by the half before AFA controlled the second half and got the final 10 points.
Wyoming is led by Sean Chambers, another Cowboy QB that hailed from the Fresno area but did not end up playing locally. While Chambers doesn’t quite have the tools that Josh Allen has, when he’s been healthy, he’s shown to be a very good QB in a much improved Wyoming offense this season. With all-conference running back Xazavian Valladay alongside him, they have proven time and again to be able to control the clock and churn up yards. They’ve been scoring 30ppg so far, although their last two games have not been as strong offensively, but their running game will present a challenge for Fresno State’s defense. Especially when Chambers chooses to pull the ball and run with it, as mobile QBs have been problematic for the defense over the last few seasons.
If there was one plus to not seeing Chevan Cordeiro in the last game, it’s that the Bulldog defense put in time preparing for a mobile QB, and was able to add more preparation over the last two weeks. They will try to do to Chambers what they did to Dorian Thompson-Robinson from UCLA, turn them into a pass-first team. Air Force was able to do that by consistently forcing Wyoming into 3rd and long situations that pressured Chambers into tight coverage throws.
Fresno State Keys to Victory:
- No turnovers- 6 turnovers, Dogs, really? Against a middling defense? That can not happen going forward if they want to be successful. Jake Haener is a competitor and a baller, but he’s got to know which throws can’t be made, or which ones need to be dumped off for a short gain instead of the highlight reel. He’s got tons of weapons around him, not every pass needs to be a touchdown to Jalen Cropper.
- Open up lanes for Ronnie Rivers- word out of practice this week has been that there is a shuffle going on with the O-Line, with a few names in new places, and a few new names getting started this week. Whichever combo they’re working with, they will have to open up more lanes for Ronnie Rivers and Jordan Mims. Hawaii was able to get so many takeaways by consistently dropping 8 back into coverage because they did not fear the running game. Ronnie would get a good chunk play, then the next run went for 0 yards or a loss, then it was back to the passing game. They will need to show that they can get positive push and get the running game moving again.
- Spread the wealth- it’s no secret that Fresno State has a lot of offensive weapons. With that in mind, the gameplan has to involve getting as many of those players involved as possible. During the Hawaii game, it seemed like Jake would get fixated on Cropper, while missing open receivers elsewhere. Hopefully the bye week allowed for some time to get everyone involved, and remind Haener of the plethora of options he’s got
- Contain Chambers- Mobile QBs have been a challenge for William Inge’s defense since he got to Fresno, and directly led to the loss to Oregon earlier in the season. Chambers hasn’t exactly been Jalen Hurts as a runner, but he can punish a team that’s not paying attention. The defense will have to keep the running game contained, and try to force 3rd and longs so that Chamber has to try beating them with his arm. He’s only been completing around 50% of his passes at 7yds/pass. Also 6TDs to 3INTs in the young season, so it’s not like he’s been an extremely prolific passer. That will be key for the defense, and might finally get the defense back into the positive turnover margin.
Both teams are looking for a bounceback, and it represents a challenge for the Dogs on the road. Games at altitude in Laramie are never easy, and Fresno has had two weeks to stew on their loss to Hawaii. Neither team can really afford another loss in conference if they want to make a run at their division. Looking at the only common opponent between the two, Fresno State blanked UCONN 45-0 in the season opener, while Wyoming had to come back in the 4th quarter to beat the Huskies 24-22. I’m pretty sure that puts the advantage in Fresno’s favor, and reports are that Jake Haener is back at 100% health from the hip and foot injuries he had sustained so far.
ESPN’s FPI gives the Dogs a 60% chance at victory, while Bill Connelly gives Fresno a 62% chance of winning. Vegas has set the line for this game at 3.5 in Fresno’s favor, while Connelly sees it as a 5.3 point spread, with a projected final score of 30-25. I might be slightly more bullish on the Dogs, but that’s to be expected. I know that Wyoming’s defense is strong, but they haven’t yet seen an offense like Jake Haener will bring. As long as the Bulldogs don’t turn the ball over 6 times again, I think that they’ll win this one on the road and get back in the win column. I’ll put my prediction as-
Fresno State 38-24 Wyoming
Let’s see how I do in the afternoon game. For all of your Mountain West content, keep it glued here.