The new Teton mountains themed field turf will be put to use on Saturday afternoon for the first time as the Wyoming Cowboys open the home portion of their season against the Idaho Vandals. The Pokes had a very positive performance against the Huskers in a loss last week and will hope to improve on their play against a squad Wyoming defeated in overtime on the road last year. This is a new season though and this Wyoming v. Idaho match-up looks to be much different from last year’s. This is how I see the two teams stacking up.
When the Cowboys Run:
Behind a new reworked offensive line that looked bigger and more physical than last year, the Wyoming running game had surprising success running the ball against Nebraska racking up 219 yards. Even more surprising was the fact the Cowboys rushed the ball 24 times on first down for a staggering 200 yards and 8.33 yards per carry. Idaho gave up 187 yards and four rushing touchdowns in their season opening loss to North Texas after allowing 197 yards per game in 2012. With Dave Christensen now calling plays the Cowboy offense is back to being balanced and I would expect Shaun Wick and company to be successful running the ball.
When the Cowboys Pass:
I think we all know that when #16 is healthy and has time to throw there are very few teams who have the ability to slow the Wyoming passing attack down. The offensive line did a very good job of protecting Smith allowing only X sacks allowing Dominic Rufran to have a career game. At home look for Smith to pass the ball to more receivers than he did the last week (5) and to eclipse the 300 yard mark yet again.
When the Vandals Run:
Rushing defense is the most important factor defensively for Wyoming going forward. The Huskers ran the ball for 375 yards last week showing this is still an area of great concern for the coaching staff. Playing Idaho should give a much better indication of how much more effective the new defensive scheme is at stopping the run considering the Vandals only rushed the ball for an average of 88 yards per game last season. Idaho did have a good rushing output of 160 yards last week with their leading rusher being the quarterback who had two lost fumbles. Until I see the Cowboy front seven stop another team running the ball the opponent will have the edge when running the ball.
When the Vandals Pass:
Redshirt freshman Chad Chalich a duel threat QB will be making his second start for the Vandals this week. In his college debut Chalich was 19 of 27 for 230 yards and one touchdown. The Wyoming secondary had a strong game against Nebraska and the good news is Idaho doesn’t have any wide receivers as good as Kenny Bell. I expect the Wyoming defensive line and linebackers to pressure the Idaho QB and for the solid secondary lead by Huff to provide more than adequate coverage of the Idaho receivers.
Freshman punter Ethan Wood did a solid job versus Nebraska using the rugby style punting Wyoming has been fond of the past few seasons. Stuart Williams missed his only kick from fifty plus yards. Wyoming should do better against a less athletic team in the kick return game so look for Claiborne to do better than he did last week. As for Idaho their punter averaged 47.3 yards a punt last week and their kicker missed his only attempt. Wyoming has better athletes but the special teams battle could go either way.
Dave Christensen is calling plays again and his offensive gameplan versus Nebraska was solid. The defense looked improved too with a faster and more athletic defense using a 3-4 scheme. Idaho’s coach is Paul Petrino who has a good offensive pedigree being the brother of Bobby Petrino but he is a first time head coach after coaching one season in the NFL and being an assistant at places like Illinois and Arkansas. It is way too early to gauge how good of a coach Petrino may be so the nod goes to Dave Christensen and his staff based on experience.
Simply put Idaho isn’t a very good team and is an opponent Wyoming should have no problem taking care of especially in the home opener. According to Vegas the Pokes are a 28 point favorite. Yet, in today’s college football no team can be overlooked (see the 7 wins by FCS schools over FBS schools last week). If Wyoming plays with the same enthusiasm and work rate as they did last week the Pokes should walk to victory. I predict a Wyoming win with Idaho covering the spread.
Cowboys 41 – Vandals 17
Prediction Record: 1-0 Straight Up and 1-0 Against The Spread