When: Saturday, Aug. 25 @ 8 PM MST

Where: Las Cruces, NM – Aggie Memorial Stadium (CAP. 30,343)

TV: ESPN2 or Watch ESPN

Radio: Cowboy Sports Network

Spread: Wyoming -3.5

The 2018 season returns tomorrow and as we have done the last couple years, we will be bringing you game predictions every Friday, along with some other commentary. Representing Wyonation will be myself, Chad Smith and Brad Reed and special guests Brandon Foster of the Casper Star-Tribune and Robert Gagliardi from Wyosports.net will be joining us. We will keep a tally of everyone’s record throughout the season for both straight up and against the spread (ATS).

The Cowboys are opening their season in Las Cruces, NM and will be taking on the New Mexico State Aggies. Wyoming is coming off their second consecutive 8 win season and their first bowl victory since 2009. They are led by what many consider an elite defense. New Mexico State is coming off a 7-6 season and also notched a bowl victory to end their season, it was NMSU’s first bowl win in 57 years. 

2017 Results

 

Straight Up

Against the Spread

Robert Gagliardi

11-29-3

Brandon Foster

10-38-4

Brad Reed

10-3

7-5

Chad Smith10-3

8-4

Connor Cunningham10-3

7-5

Wyoming Cowboys8-5

7-5

 

Robert Gagliardi, Wyosports.net

What should we expect from the Cowboys this season? Do you have a record prediction?

I would expect good defense and an offense that needs time to grow. Don’t think the Cowboys will win a lot of shootouts, but likely a lot of games in the 20-17 range. I think the defense is good enough for the Cowboys to win seven games and reach a bowl for the third consecutive year — something that has not been done in school history. Record Prediction: 7-5

Who is your pick for breakout candidate for 2018? TE Austin Fort

Fort provides size and athleticism over the middle at 6-4 and around 240 pounds. He could be the best friend for a new quarterback.   

This week’s Poke Pick: DT Youhanna Ghaifan

If Ghaifan can be disruptive up front, even if he doesn’t make a lot of tackles, that will open things up for the rest of the defenders to make plays. New Mexico State has an experienced offensive line so this won’t be easy, but when Ghaifan plays well, the entire defense plays well.

The Cowboys Win if…

It wins the turnover battle, doesn’t give up a lot of big plays and can run the football offensively. 

Game Prediction:

I see a low scoring game that could hinge on some plays defensively and on special teams. Wyoming 20 NMSU 10

 

Brandon Foster, Casper Star-Tribune

What should we expect from the Cowboys this season? Do you have a record prediction?

I think the ceiling for this team is deceptively high. That said… As tempting of a mantra as “Well, the offense was bad even with Josh Allen last year, so what’s the worst that can happen?” may be, there’s no magical guarantee that a bad offense has to get better. It would be hard to overstate how much of the load Allen took on last year, and while experience should help at the other spots, there was a lot of movement in fall camp at O-line and running back. But, the team has talked about spreading out the responsibilities so they don’t all fall on the QB, so we’ll see. Maybe they do take that step forward. If they do, they should be pretty dang good, thanks to that defense. In fact, if the offense clicks, there’s not a single game on that schedule where I would be absolutely shocked if UW won. (Calm down, I’m not predicting 12-0.) I think the defense gives them a relatively high floor. They should at least beat the teams they’re supposed to, regardless of the offensive’s output. I’m going to hedge my bets and say eight wins for the third straight season, though maybe one of them comes in the bowl. Record Prediction: 8-4

Who is your pick for breakout candidate for 2018? DE Garrett Crall

There are players who are already good who could have breakout seasons in the sense that the national media will start paying more attention, but I’ll pick a player who hasn’t really broken out as a star on the team yet. Let’s go with Garrett Crall. He’s earned a starting spot on what might be one of the best defensive lines in the country, and I’m not surprised, either. It seems like the coaches have always been high on him. Plus, it’s not like O-lines will be able to double-team him, with all the other talent Wyoming has up front.

This week’s Poke Pick: CB C.J. Coldon

His potential seems to be sky-high, but he’s still making his first college start against a team that was second in the nation last year in passes completed. On a defense without many inexperienced dudes, there will be a magnifying glass on the redshirt freshman CB. 

The Cowboys Win if…

Wyoming wins if Tyler Vander Waal is the best first-time Division I starter in the game.

Game Prediction:

I think there are plenty of things to worry about in this game. New quarterback and running back, three frosh on the O-line, heat, road game, NMSU will be amped, experienced NMSU defense, etc. But the Aggies’ strength last year was the passing game, which would seem to play right into Wyoming’s strength: pass defense. Cowboys win but don’t cover. Wyoming 17 NMSU 14

 

Brad Reed, Wyonation.com

What should we expect from the Cowboys this season? Do you have a record prediction?

We should expect the Cowboys to keep moving forward under the direction of Craig Bohl. Despite the loss of Josh Allen this is still a very talented team. Tyler Vander Waal is a capable quarterback. We’ll see him making some rookie mistakes, but we’ll also see him grow up before our eyes. Helping him through his season will be a stellar Wyoming defense chock full of playmakers. Having a top 25 defense will help ease the transition for the young gunslinger. I think we’ll see a much more consistent team this year than last year, especially on the offensive side of the ball. I think this team has eight wins in them. Record Prediction: 8-4

Who is your pick for breakout candidate for 2018? QB Tyler Vander Waal 

The last quarterbacks who made starts as freshman were Brett Smith and Austyn Carta-Samuels. The Cowboys had a lot of success with them two starting at quarterback, I think we see a little bit of that kind of rookie magic from Vander Waal. Hopefully he’s the next quarterback in a long line of Bohl recruited quarterbacks to have success.  

This week’s Poke Pick: DE Carl Granderson

Big Carl will be leaned on to disrupt the quarterback and force him into bad decisions throughout the season. Carl has his chance this weekend against a New Mexico State quarterback who will be making his first FBS starts. Matt Romero is a transfer from Palomar College. Can’t imagine a better way to be welcomed to FBS than being greeted by Granderson. 

The Cowboys Win if…

Wyoming wins if the defense holds NMSU to less than 10 points. I’m not expecting big things from the Wyoming offense in this game, but if they defense can pin down the Aggies offense then they’ll have a shot. Nico Evans will need a big day to keep the ball away from the potent Aggies offense which loves to throw the ball around the field. Sustaining drives and keeping the ball off the turf will be key.  

Game Prediction:

Wyoming 22 NMSU 17

 

Chad Smith, Wyonation.com 

What should we expect from the Cowboys this season? Do you have a record prediction?

Aswrote earlier in the week, I don’t have a great feel for what we will see from the Cowboys this season. The most likely scenario is a middle of the road season with 6 or 7 wins and a third consecutive bowl appearance. That can be improved on though if the defense plays as well as they did last year and the offense finds some more scoring. On the flip side, things could take a step back if the defense doesn’t perform well and the offense continues to struggle. Record Prediction: 7-5

Who is your pick for breakout candidate for 2018? Running Backs

The most important position in 2018 for the Pokes is at running back. Senior Nico Evans has been named the starter but he is currently being backed up by two freshmen in redshirt freshman  Xazavian Valladay and true freshman Jevon Bigelow. I don’t know who will end up being the bell cow but one of these three players is going to burst on the scene and give the Cowboys the running game production they lacked last season.

This week’s Poke Pick: S Andrew Wingard

New Mexico State likes to throw the ball around, so look for recently named second-team All-American safety Andrew Wingard to left off where he did in 2017.

The Cowboys Win if…

They can establish the running game. I really do believe it is that simple facing a pass-happy offense in the southwest heat. The running game will help the defense rest and take some of the pressure off first time QB starter Tyler Vander Waal.

Game Prediction:

This is a total shot in the dark because I have no clue what will happen. Wyoming 20 NMSU 16

 

Connor Cunningham, Wyonation.com

What should we expect from the Cowboys this season? Do you have a record prediction?

There are a lot of unknowns about the Wyoming offense. Particularly at quarterback. Tyler Vander Waal has been the guy since spring and it sounds like his fall camp only solidified that sentiment. I think he has a ton of talent, but we won’t know what there is at the QB spot until the lights come on tomorrow night. There have been some questions about the OL and of course the Pokes need a vastly improved running game. Even with the unknowns on offense, they return some talent. On the other side of the ball, the Pokes have an elite defense that can carry them in games if the offense struggles early on. I think the defense is good enough to win 6 games alone and I think the offense will be better than expected. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pokes won 9 or 10 but they always seem to have a let up game (i.e. 2016 UNLV & 2017 SJSU). I think they win 8 games and go bowling for the third straight year. Record Prediction: 8-4

Who is your pick for breakout candidate for 2018? CB Antonio Hull

Antonio (Noodles) Hull has played in 27 games, but missed all but 1 game last year. He showed a ton of promise in his first 2 seasons and now that he is healthy, he is primed to build on that. Wyoming is going to need their CB’s to step up as it is their biggest question mark on that side of the ball and out of their 4 guys listed on the depth chart, 3 are freshman. Hull needs to lead this unit and I think he has the ability to do it.

This week’s Poke Pick: WR Austin Conway

Conway is the most reliable pass catcher the Cowboys have and is coming off a season where he lead the team with 62 catches. He is exactly the kind of player you want paired up with a freshman QB making his first career start. I expect the Cowboys to use Conway in all kinds of ways. As I wrote about yesterday, he has a history of making big plays in a number of ways, which are catching, running, passing, and returning. I think Conway will get 10-12 touches a game and if he gets going it will open up a lot.

The Cowboys Win if…

They don’t beat themselves. What I mean by that, the Cowboys can’t have momentum killing penalties or lose the turnover battle. If they take care of the ball and the defense performs like they are capable, they should come home with a win.

Game Prediction:

I think the Pokes pick up where they left off. Their defensive line will dominate the football game and the offense will find their rhythm by the time the second half rolls around. Wyoming 24 NMSU 13

 

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