Wyoming renews their rivalry with BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl with a 7:00 pm MT kick-off on Wednesday night in a game televised by ESPN. Here is what to look for in this match-up between the Cowboys and Cougars. Whoever has the upper hand in these three factors will probably win the game and take home a new shiny trophy.
It seems like every week Wyoming and Brian Hill are matched up with another top ranked NCAA running back. To date Wyoming has faced three of the top 20 running backs in the FBS in rushing yards: Pumphrey (SDSU), McNicholls (Boise State) and Butler (Nevada). The Poinsettia Bowl will be no different as Hill will be put up against BYU running back Jamaal Williams. Hill is ranked 6th in yards per game this season with 135.9 and Williams comes into the bowl game ranked 8th with 129.4 yards per game.
Hill will be looking to bounce back from a sub-par Mountain West Championship game where he only averaged 1.8 yards per carry on 15 rushing attempts after removing his long gain of 66 yards against the Aztecs. The offensive line who can best open up holes for their talented running back will have the upper hand in the Southern California bowl battle.
Red Zone Opportunities
Converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns is a key in any football game. It will especially import in the Poinsettia Bowl as both BYU and Wyoming rank in the top 20 in terms of offensive red zone efficiency this season. BYU converts 94% of their red zone opportunities into scores (5th) while Wyoming converts at a 90% rate (19th). Wyoming has actually scored more points though with a higher percentage of their red zone scores being touchdowns (a 74 to 59 percent advantage for the Cowboys).
The big difference in this category is the red zone defensive efficiency between the two schools. The BYU defense ranks seventh in the country only allowing their opponents to convert on 74% of their red zone chances. Wyoming on the other hand is middle of the pack ranking 64th in the country at a 84% conversion rate for their opponents. A key to watch for in this game is which team can convert their red zone chances into touchdowns and what defense can hold the opposition to field goals.
A staple of Wyoming’s high-scoring offense has been the explosive play. The Pokes rank first in the Mountain West and 15th in the country in plays of 20 plus yards with 77 so far this season. BYU on the other hand only ranked 120th in the country in explosive plays with 40. The Cougars have a more plodding offense that relies on sustained drives. This difference between the two schools can also be seen in the points per play for each team. Wyoming averaged .492 points per play on the season (22nd) while BYU only averaged .383 pointer per play (66th).
On the defensive side, the scripts are flipped when it comes to explosive plays. Wyoming had an abysmal time not allowing explosive plays ranking 128th in the country (dead last) with a staggering 93 plays of 20 yards or more. The Cougars have a less porous defense and only allowed 45 plays of 20 yards or more ranking them 14th in the nation.
As a result of these stats, the key questions are: Can Wyoming’s offense produce explosive plays against one of the best defenses they have faced this season? Will the Poke defense be able to slow down a BYU offense that hasn’t produced many explosive plays?
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