As we wait for the conference championship games to be decided this weekend before bowl bids will be handed out let’s focus on the Wyoming Cowboy offense. Under the direction of Brent Vigen the past six years, this unit has ranked in the bottom half of the Mountain West and the bottom third of FBS in points scored and total offense five of six seasons.
Wyoming’s Offensive FBS Rankings Points/Total Offense Updated For The Entire 2019 Season:
2014 – 110/84
— WyoNation Blog (@WyoNationBlog) December 1, 2019
The stated goal of every Wyoming Cowboys football coach and player is to compete for and win Mountain West conference titles. In professional sports, you often hear about teams being built to win their division. This is a concept that isn’t often talked about in college sports, so I thought I would dig into the numbers to answer the question: What does it take to win the Mountain West in football?
Looking at the offensive numbers there is a clear trend that can’t be ignored. The last 15 Mountain West Conference Champions in football have all been teams who averaged at least 30 points per game. If you go back to the establishment of the Mountain West in 1999, 20 of 24 Champions (Including shared titles before divisions) have averaged 30 points or more per game. The last outright conference champion to score less than 30 points per game was Utah in 2003. The 30 point trend is sure to continue in 2019 with Boise State (37.3 points per game, #1 MW) hosting Hawaii (35.4 points per game, #2 MW) this weekend.
So what is the takeaway for Wyoming football? If you want to reach your goals and truly “build something special” as Coach Bohl likes to say, you better be scoring some points. The Mountain West is still very much an offensive league and having a top-notch defense alone isn’t going to win the league. San Diego State is a program very much like Wyoming that looks to run the ball and play strong defense. The Aztecs have two conference titles in the last five years and on both those occasions they had a defense that ranked #1 in the conference but also an offense that scored over thirty points per game.
To drive this point home even further, Wyoming’s only appearance in the Mountain West Championship Game came when they offense scored guess what….over thirty points per game (35.9 to be exact). That 2016 season is the only time Bohl/Vigen has had an offense that scored over thirty points a game at Wyoming. This offense had NFL caliber players at QB, RB, OL, TE, and WR. If that’s the type of talent it takes to score over thirty points per game in this current offensive system then long term success at Wyoming on offense is not in the cards.
Bohl has made big decisions in the past that have had a great benefit to the football program. In December of 2016 coming off a division title, he relieved defensive coordinator Steve Standard of his duties and Scottie Hazelton coming in and having an immediate impact lowering Wyoming’s points allowed per game from 34.1 to 17.5 in just one season which was an amazing accomplishment.
Last December, Bohl let offensive line Coach Scott Fuchs go and this season the offensive line even with numerous injuries was much improved to the eye and one of the strengths of the team.
It is time for another bold decision to be made on the offensive side of the ball for Wyoming to take the next step forward. The stats above show that the Mountain West is an offensive league and you must score thirty points per game to have a chance to become the league champion. Wyoming made significant improvements with a change in leadership on the defensive side of the ball and the same decision must be strongly considered on the offensive side of the ball.
As the offense is currently operated, Wyoming can beat bad teams but they struggle mightily against good teams. In the six seasons under Bohl Wyoming is 21-8 vs teams with losing records but just 9-30 against teams with winning records (including a very poor 1-10 record the past two seasons). I am not advocating for an air raid offense, Wyoming just needs to find a way to be more efficient in the passing game. There are plenty of run-heavy schools that have success in the passing game in terms of pass completion percentage. Wyoming is coming off a season where they completed less than 50% of their passes. That should be absolutely embarrassing to both players and coaches alike in this modern football climate that is very offense friendly. Here are some run-heavy schools and their pass completion percentages: Minnesota (65.5%), Wisconsin (73.0%), Utah (74.7%) and Kansas State (59.2%).
If Wyoming was even at 55% in pass completion there is a very good chance they have at least two more victories in the win column this season. A strong running game should allow for a very efficient passing game as seen by the passing numbers for the other run-heavy schools above.
If Brent Vigen can’t figure out how to incorporate some passing concepts that will put the Wyoming quarterbacks and other skill players in a position to be successful (and there isn’t much proof he can after six seasons). Then Bohl has no choice but to make a move to give Wyoming a better chance to score thirty points on a consistent basis. This along with the strong defensive culture that has been developed under Bohl will allow Wyoming to compete year in and year out with Boise State for the division title which will allow the Pokes to compete for more conference titles.
Will Bohl make a bold decision during Bowl season? We will have to wait and see but I think the chances are very low.