Fresh off a 42 to 34 road victory over the University of Nevada, the Wyoming Cowboys will be hosting the Boise State Broncos this weekend. The Cowboys are 5-2 overall including a 3-0 record in Mountain West play with victories over Colorado State, Air Force and Nevada. While Boise State is 7-0 overall and ranked 13th in the country with the very same 3-0 conference record with victories over Utah State, New Mexico and Colorado State.
The fact both schools are undefeated in conference play makes the game in Laramie on Saturday night very important one. The winner of this game will control their own destiny in the Mountain Division to reach the 2016 Mountain West Championship game on December third.
This is one of the biggest football games to be played at War Memorial stadium in years and a question must be asked. Is Wyoming ready to go toe to toe with Boise State?
The Case for Wyoming
Wyoming is 3-0 at home this season and on a four-game winning streak including the 2015 season-ending home victory against UNLV. Wyoming had a good crowd for Air Force (26,623) and you might see even more brown & gold clad fans in the stands on Saturday night adding to the Cowboys home field advantage. Especially with a late afternoon/early evening kickoff where fans will get to prime at tailgates.
The Cowboys offense has made tremendous strides this season and the Pokes are averaging 33.4 points per game, ranking them second in the Mountain West behind only New Mexico’s 40 points per game. This Wyoming offense led by Josh Allen, Brian Hill and Tanner Gentry at the skill positions is more equipped than ever to put up points on the Boise State defense.
Boise State’s defense this year is solid but not spectacular. They rank fourth in the Mountain West in rush defense allowing 140 yards per game. In pass defense they come in at seventh allowing 222 yards per game. That’s a total of 364 total yards per game and isn’t far away from Wyoming’s total offense average of 418 yards per game.
With a balanced attack Wyoming should be able to move the ball on Boise State. This is especially true coming off a 400 yard plus rushing effort against Nevada. The results seen in Reno should give the running backs and offensive line great confidence going into Saturday night.
Defensively, Wyoming’s ability to force turnovers is a big advantage Wyoming will have coming into this game. The Cowboys are second in the Mountain West in turnover margin at plus-four. Boise State enters this week ranked dead last in turnover margin at negative-eight. That is by far their worse total since joining the Mountain West with their previous worst being a plus-three margin in 2013. If Wyoming can win the turnover battle and there’s a good chance they can, a Cowboy victory would look more likely.
The Case against Wyoming
The first case against Wyoming is a historical one. In ten all-time matchups between the two schools between 2002 and 2015, the Cowboys are 0-10 losing by an average score of 38 to 12. The closest game between the two schools took place in 2006 with the Broncos winning 17-10. The fact the Pokes have never beaten Boise State can’t be overlooked and will be a part of the psychology of this game.
In terms of looking at the two schools as they currently stand, the pass offense of Boise State is a major concern for Wyoming. The Broncos are number one in the Mountain West and 15th in the nation in passing offense averaging 320 yards per game. That total is a very surprising 85 passing yards more per game than the second place Mountain West team (Hawaii at 235 yards per game).
Boise States sophomore QB Brett Rypien is hands down the best QB in the Mountain West. He leads the conference in passing yards (294 per game) and passing touchdowns (15) while only throwing five interceptions. The Broncos also have a very talented wide-receiver in Thomas Sperbeck who just set the Boise State career receiving record. Sperbeck has 191 career receptions for 3,139 yards in 42 games for the men in blue.
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Meanwhile the Wyoming pass defense is last in the Mountain West and 123rd in the nation allowing 299 passing yards per game. The Cowboys defense has improved in almost every area this season but the pass defense is not one of them. During the dismal 2015 season the Wyoming defense only allowed 196 passing yards per game. The 299 yards per game allowed this year is an amazing 103 yards per game increase from last season.
Given the statistics of the Boise pass offense and the Wyoming pass defense, it’s hard to see a scenario where Wyoming slows the Broncos offense down enough to win the game.
The Bottom Line
This game is a big opportunity for the Wyoming football program and Head Coach Craig Bohl. The conditions could be ripe for a Wyoming upset, even though the Pokes enter the game as 12 point underdogs.
The history of this series and the current state of the Wyoming pass defense look to be a lot to overcome. Yet, as we have seen time and time again in college football games are not played on paper and often don’t turnout how they are forecasted. Wyoming will get their chance on Saturday night in Laramie to prove on the football field that they can go toe to toe with Boise State and that’s the way it should be.