Brett Smith is brought down by the Nebraska defense, the two teams last met in 2011.

Brett Smith is brought down by the Nebraska defense, the two teams last met in 2011. Nebraska won the game 38-14.

It’s finally here! Today marks the opening of the 2013 college football season and we now have something to hold us over until the Pokes kick off on Saturday evening in Lincoln. A new year brings new hope to the Cowboys after a disappointing 2012 season and Saturday will give everyone an idea of what to expect for the coming season. Now, let’s talk about the game a little bit. This is the first of a weekly post I will be doing on players to watch in the upcoming game, let’s get started shall we?

Who to watch for Wyoming:

Offense:

#16 QB Brett Smith, Jr.- I know, obvious answer right? I won’t normally pick the Cowboys best player, but for this game Brett Smith is the only choice. Smith followed up a phenomenal freshman season with an even better sophomore campaign. In 10 games Smith threw for 2,832 yards, 27 TD’s, and only 6 Interceptions, while completing 62% of his passes. He added 248 yards and 6 TD’s on the ground. Smith comes into this season off of what looks like to be a very successful summer, he added size to his frame and spent time working out at the Manning Passing Academy as well as receiving 1 on 1 coaching from Jeff Garcia and Drew Brees. It’s no secret that the Pokes go as Smith goes and in order for the Cowboys to stand any chance of an upset they need Smith to play a great game.

Record Watch: Smith enters the game 5 passing attempts away from breaking the Wyoming and Mountain West record for most pass attempts in a row without and interception thrown, the record is currently held by Wyoming native Casey Bramlet with 178 attempts. Smith’s 174 consecutive attempts is tied with Central Florida’s Blake Bortles for the country’s the longest active streak. The NCAA record is 379, held by Russell Wilson.

Defense:

#45 LB Lucas Wacha, Fr.- Wacha began taking reps with the #1 defense about half way through spring ball and hasn’t looked back since.  Saturday will not only be his first career start for Wyoming, but also his first career game. Although he is considered undersized for his position (214 lbs) he has the ability to be a playmaker. Nebraska ran all over UW in their last meeting rushing for 333 yards and  in order for Wyoming to have any chance, this number will have to be considerably less. Wacha could help the defense in this department, he flies around the field and is very fast and has great instincts. He met UW RB’s in the backfield numerous times throughout the fall scrimmages and plays with passion and a chip on his shoulder. If Wyoming is able to slow down the Nebraska rushing attack, Wacha will have a big part in it.

Wyoming’s X-Factor:

#14 CB/KR/PR Tyran Finley, Jr.- Finley burst onto the scene during the fall camp, displaying his speed on various occasions. He had a few punt returns that would’ve gone for 6 and picked of Brett Smith for a TD. He worked his way up the depth chart through camp and is listed as the starting CB and KR as well as the #2 PR, but he will get his chance to return punts. Wyoming is going to need a big play from the defense and/or special teams on Saturday and it could very well come from Finley.

 

Who to watch for Nebraska:

Offense:

#8 RB Ameer Abdullah, Jr.- Last season Wyoming struggled with their rushing defense, and that’s putting it lightly. They finished the season in a tie for 117th out of 120 FBS teams, allowing 232.33 yards a game. For this reason I selected Abdullah and not Taylor Martinez. Abdullah burst on to the scene last year as the replacement for the injured Rex Burkhead, finishing the season with 1,137 yards and 8 scores.  Abdullah, who is an explosive returner, has top end speed and if he gets out on the edge on a consistent basis, it will be a long day for Wyoming.  Abdullah is one of the more explosive running backs in the B1G and Wyoming will have their hands full trying to slow him down.

Defense:

#17 DB Ciante Evans, Sr.- Evans last season had 56 tackles, an interception and a TD and was tabbed honorable mention All-B1G, as voted by the coaches. ESPN and CBS selected him to the 1st team All-B1G.  Evans plays nickel back in Nebraska’s “Peso” defense. Bo Pelini gives the nickel a lot of responsibility in this defense asking him to do a wide range of things that includes defending the slot, blitzing, staying in the box, and containing the edge, according to Big Red Today on Omaha.com. Also, according to Big Red Today Evans is Nebraska’s most talented defender .If they’re not in the “peso” defense, Evans will play their #1 CB spot. Evans is a dynamic playmaker and he sounds like a Troy Polamalu type, kind of a jack-of-all-trades. Wyoming’s offense is going to have to account for Evans’ whereabouts on every play, if they don’t he will make them pay.

Nebraska’s X-Factor

WR Kenny Bell, JR- Bell had 50 catches, 863 yards, and 8 TD’s a year ago and is a big play threat, averaging 17.3 yards per catch a year ago. I picked Bell as the x-factor because if Wyoming is over playing the run, they will become susceptible to the play action pass and Bell will be able to make a big play over the top for 6. He has 4.5 speed and could be on the receiving end of the one play that could break this game wide open.

Those are my players to watch for this weekend’s showdown in Lincoln. Who are some players you will be watching for?

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