Year four of the Dave Christensen era at Wyoming opens with a road game versus #15 Texas in Austin. The Cowboys and Longhorns have played each other twice in the past 3 seasons and the Pokes held the lead late in the second quarter when hosting the Big 12 power but did lose both games. How will the third game of this series shake out? Read on to find out!
When the Cowboys Run:
With the loss of Alvester Alexander the Cowboys only have two running backs with meaningful game experience junior Brandon Miller and sophomore Kody Sutton. Sutton is not on the two deep depth chart for this first game after leaving the team a few days for family reasons before deciding to rejoin the team. Miller can handle the load and his backup Shaun Wick who impressed during fall camp should get a few carries as well. Brett Smith has also been given more freedom to run as well so that should help keep the offense balanced. Texas is very good versus the run only allowing 96 yards per game last season (7th in the country) and I do not expect Wyoming to have much success on the ground.
When the Cowboys Pass:
Brett Smith was solid last year and was fairly consistent with right around 200 yards passing per game. He did tail off to 150 yards per game as the schedule became tougher but that was also due in part to the thumb injury he suffered that was corrected with surgery in the offseason. Texas was a middle of the road team versus the pass last year so Wyoming could do some damage through the air if Smith is kept upright by the offensive line. It will be important for the Cowboys to spread the ball around to different receivers
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When the Longhorns Run:
Stopping the run has been a weakness of the Wyoming defense for the last three years where Wyoming has ranked 115th, 106th and 90th in the country when defending the run. The inability to stop the run is the main reason Chris Tormey has been brought in as defensive coordinator. The Cowboys have improved size on the defensive line and the scheme has been tweaked to better defend the run. I fully expect the Pokes to be better at defending the run over the season but the Cowboys will have a hard time slowing down a Texas ground game that returns their two leading rushers from last year Malcom Brown (742 yards) and Joe Bergeron (463 yards).
When the Longhorns Pass:
Texas doesn’t put much emphasis on the passing game as they look to establish the run first. They plan to play two quarterbacks in McCoy and Ash and both put up similar numbers last season. Wyoming has a solid secondary with Luke Ruff and Blair Burns but so much effort has to be made in stopping the run that the secondary will often be in one on one situations. Look for Texas to make plays when they have to through the air.
Both schools have had a great deal of turnover in the special teams department since last season in terms of personnel. Texas lost Justin Tucker who handled their kicking and punting duties whereas the Cowboys lost Austin McCoy to graduation and kicker Daniel Sullivan to illness (and will be redshirting this year). With four new kickers in the fray it is hard to say who will have the upper hand in the kicking department. The special teams battle will come down to the return teams and it is safe to say Texas has the better athletes in this category, ranking in the top twenty last year in both kick and punt returns. It will be interesting to see how the new touchback rule impacts the game with kicks going into the end zone now being spotted at the 25 yard line and not the 20.
Mack Brown is one of the most overrated coaches in all of college football. He has one of the easiest jobs in the country where he rarely has to leave the state of Texas to play an out of conference game or to recruit. His team is usually so talented he can get away with being an average at best game day coach. With that said he still holds a considerable edge on Dave Christensen who has a 0-9 record against ranked teams losing by the average score of 34 to 9. In the past he has played these games not to lose instead of playing to win and the Pokes have been blown out. Will that change Saturday night in Austin?
This isn’t a dominant Texas team and they are perhaps vulnerable to an upset but I feel the Longhorns will still be too much for the Cowboys. Wyoming has more depth and skill than they ever had under Christensen but are still a fairly young team with 21 freshman or sophomores on the two deep depth chart. Texas will grind away on the ground and their size and athleticism will be too much for the Pokes to stand up to.
Texas 37 – Wyoming 13