One of the best things about collegiate football is its penchant for traditions. Whether it is the Red Beans and Rice Bowl or the Secretaries Cup, many schools have a game that belongs in the "if we beat team X, it will be a successful year" category on their schedule.
Date: Nov. 7
Coach: Mike Bobo
This Season: 3-4
Last season: 10-3
Rashard Higgins, WR; Kevin Davis, LB; Trent Matthews, S
Big rivalry but the Poke defense must show up
Last week against Utah State, the Cowboys failed to stop the USU offense-- at all. The Pokes gave up 14 of 17 passes for 246 yards and 3 touchdowns to a Utah State QB known more for his legs than his arm.
In the run game, the Wyoming edges were soft and the tackling poor. The Pokes continued to let opposing ball carriers slip away for positive yards.
Too many times a chance at facing 2nd and 12 turned into a 2 and 5. For the 2015 Wyoming Cowboys, this lack of defensive physicality has been a theme. Perhaps the fervor of the Border War will help spur rapid improvement?
Not so fast.
Head coach Craig Bohl continues to focus of building from within:
"Before we even get focused on CSU think we gotta correct our mistakes, we gotta mend some fences." Says Bohl, "Last (game) was not a real showing of a defense that I feel like we have."
Rams hold advantage in experience and depth
CSU has a roster loaded with experience: "When you look down the roster," explains coach Bohl, "You've got 6 or 7 red shirt seniors (starting on defense) so you've got 5th year guys, guys who shave."
Compare this to Wyoming's TOTAL of 8 Seniors on the ENTIRE ROSTER and you can bet that Wyoming will be focused on getting the little things right.
Coach Bohl is undaunted: "Even though a guy is young out there and I won't say a bunch of different names, but those guys are competitive and they've had an opportunity to make plays in college football games that have been good..."
One of the dividends of team experience is team consistency. CSU Is one of five teams in the FBS that are ranked in the top 25 on third-down offense, converting at 45.6 percent clip, and third-down defensive efficiency (31.8, 21st).
Poke fans and secondary beware: CSU's veteran receiving corps leads the FBS with 8,244 total career yards combined.
Rashard Higgins is the real deal, remember?
Last year Higgins torched the Cowboy secondary with 5 catches for 174 yards. In what I'm nominating as the coaches' press conference cliche under statement of the year, Bohl acknowledges Higgins' skill:
"They (CSU) have one of the best receivers in the country (Higgins) and we had a very difficult time with him last year.."
Higgins was 2015 preseason MWC offensive player of the year and has been effective, contributing 46 catches, 618 yards and 5 TDs to a fairly balanced Rams offensive attack.
Can Nick Smith's legs help Brian Hill run?
With red shirt senior starting QB Cameron Coffman likely to sit out another game with a shoulder injury, it's up to red shirt frosh Nick Smith to step up again and take advantage of perhaps the one thing he does better than Coffman: run the football.
Smith's passing numbers versus Utah State (10-18, 38 yds) were pedestrian, but at least he did not turn the ball over and ran the ball 19 times for 53 yards. Perhaps this added versatility helped to make running back Brian Hill's 201 yard effort versus a stout USU run defense possible?
As usual expect to see a big time dosage of Hill. The potential Doak Walker Award finalist averages nearly 23 carries per game and has gained 1262 yards at 6.2 yard per rush.
Don't be at all surprised to see a Wyoming team that embraces a more option oriented attack as they continue to adjust to Nick Smith's skill set.
Vegas has Wyoming as an 11 point underdog, but also set the Wyoming over/under win total at 5. What gives?
It usually comes down to this: In a true rivalry, throw out the Vegas script, buckle up and hang on because you never know what's in store. Rivalry games can bring the unexpected and I'm expecting Wyoming to bring the Bronze Boot back to Laramie with a victory over CSU in front of the home crowd.