1-day away Cowboy fans! This year we will be bringing you game predictions every Friday. Representing Wyonation will be myself, Chad Smith and Brad Reed and special guests Ryan Holmgren of the Casper Star-Tribune and Robert Gagliardi from Wyosports.net will be joining each week to give their thoughts on the upcoming matchup. Each participant will give their Poke Pick (A player or position group for Wyoming they think will play a key role), what they think Wyoming needs to do to win, and their outcome prediction. We will keep a tally of everyone’s record throughout the season for both straight up and against the spread (ATS).
As we know by now Wyoming and North Dakota will kick off at 2:00 PM from War Memorial Stadium to start the 2015 season. North Dakota is out Grand Forks, ND and plays in the FCS’ Big Sky Conference. Wyoming will come in as an 18.5 point favorite, according to Sportbet.com.
Robert Gagliardi, Wyosports.net
Pokes Pick: Offense and defensive lines
This can be the key in any game, but for the opener it is important the offensive line establishes the line of scrimmage against a formidable North Dakota defense not just in the run game, but also in pass protection to allow redshirt senior quarterback Cameron Coffman to get into a rhythm. Defensively, the line must be solid to make it easier for an inexperienced back seven to make plays.
The Cowboys win if…
They establish both lines of scrimmage, and play assignment-sound football. No turnovers offensively and don’t allow the big play defensively.
I think Coffman and running backs Shaun Wick and Brian Hill have big games, and the defense comes up with more stops than it had in most games last year. Coffman throws for 250-plus yards and a couple of TDs, and Wick and Hill each score one TD. Final score: Wyoming 31 North Dakota 10.
Ryan Holmgren, Casper Star-Tribune
Pokes pick: Brian Hill, RB
From watching him throughout fall camp, he just appears ready for a monster year. He’s bigger, faster and stronger — and even a bit taller — than last season. With a year of experience under his belt, and a capable offensive line, I expect him to have a big game against North Dakota.
The Cowboys win if…
They limit turnovers. Of course, this could be said for most games, but in UW’s pro-style offense, that’s especially important. North Dakota will need to record a few takeaways and take advantage of those opportunities to pull the upset.
The Cowboys’ uber-young defensive secondary gives up some big plays through the air, but UW’s ground attack is more than enough to move to 1-0. Wick and Hill each bust a couple of big runs. Wyoming 38 North Dakota 21
Brad Reed, Wyonation.com
Pokes Pick: Cameron Coffman, QB
His first start in Laramie and he’s going to make a statement that he’s going to be the man to lead this team to victories this year. He was named a captain of this football team and he’ll take that very seriously by taking a part the North Dakota defense in the home opener. Honorable mention: Shaun Wick, 125 yards and two scores is what I’m hoping for!
The Cowboys win if…
They control the football with Wick and Hill in the backfield. Limit the turnovers of the offense. Play disciplined defense. That’s basically the recipe to win every football game this year, but we’ll go ahead and use it this week and see how it goes. Also, they’ll probably win if they have more points on the scoreboard (I was channeling my inner @FauxPelini with that).
Three touchdown tosses from Cameron Coffman, two rushing touchdowns from Wick. Eddie Yarbrough grabs a couple of sacks. 24,000 in the stands. Wyoming 45 North Dakota 13
Chad Smith, Wyonation.com
Pokes Pick: Luchas Wacha, LB
Linebackers are the traditional organizers and leaders of a defense and the junior weakside linebacker is by far the most experienced and accomplished linebacker the Cowboys have coming into this season. Against FCS competition I expect Wacha to show that leadership and experience by having a good day for the Poke defense leading by example.
The Cowboys win if…
They effectively run the ball and limit turnovers.
Establishing the running game is key against a lower division opponent as Wyoming should be able to physically dominate the North Dakota defense with their improved offensive line. Limiting turnovers is important as well because upsets often happen when the favorite team gives away cheap points turnovers that give the underdogs confidence they can pull off an upset.
Wyoming will win this game but with so many unknown factors it is very difficult for me to come up with a score prediction I have any confidence in. Coffman is a clear upgrade at QB but without seeing him in live action wearing brown and gold I’m not quite sure what we will see in this west coast system. It’s very well possible he will light it up in his first Wyoming start and the Cowboys win going away and it’s just as likely he could struggle in his first start as he gets back into the flow of college football after sitting out a year due to his transfer from Indiana. With that said I will temper expectations and I am backing a modest Wyoming win. Wyoming 27 North Dakota 13
Connor Cunningham, Wyonation.com
Poke Pick: Eddie Yarbrough
My pick would have been Wacha, but since Chad chose him I figured I would go a different route. Yarbrough is the heart and soul of the Wyoming defense and is one of the best players in the Mountain West Conference. The two-time All-MWC 1st teamer will look to set the tone for the defense early and often and hopefully he and his counterpart Siaosi Hala’api’api can come up with a couple sacks and disrupt UND’s rhythm and cause some errant throws and turnovers.
Wyoming wins if…
They don’t beat themselves. Wyoming comes into Saturday as a heavy favorite and need to limit their mistakes such as turnovers, penalties, and errors. They can’t allow UND to hang around. If they do, you never know what can happen when an underdog has a little hope and confidence. The Cowboys need to score early and stop UND from gaining momentum.
Wyoming will come out and punch UND in the mouth by virtue of their 2 headed monster in the backfield of Shaun Wick and Brian Hill and this will open up some throws down field for Coffman. The defensive line and athletic LB’s will cause a couple turnovers and this game should be decided by the end of the 3rd quarter. I think the Pokes win handily. Wyoming 38 UND 17
Alight, now you have our picks let’s here what you guys think?