The Matchup: Wyoming (1-0) vs Northern Illinois (1-0)
When: Saturday, September 11th @ 11:30 AM
Where: DeKalb, Illinois, Huskie Stadium
TV: ESPN+ (online)
Radio: Cowboy Sports Network
Spread: Wyoming -6.5 O/U: 44.5 via OddsShark.com
|Straight Up||Against the Spread||O/U|
Wyoming will take to the road for the first time in 2021 to take on Nothern Illinois out of the MAC. The Cowboys lead the all-time series versus the Huskies 1-0 with the lone game of this match-up taking place in 2016 in Laramie. I’m sure you remember this game, it’s the infamous lighting delay game that saw the Pokes win in OT well after midnight.
In what one area must Wyoming improve over last week to beat the Huskies?
Taking a thoughtful look at last week I’ve decided that Montana State might be one of the best defenses the Cowboys will see this season and might be one of the best defensive lines the Pokes will see all season. The Cowboys struggled on offense a lot of the day until the last quarter of the game. The team still rushed for more than 100 yards and passed for nearly 200 yards. Compared to last year that feels like progress. That all being said, I think the offensive line needs to assert the dominance against Northern Illinois. The Bobcats did a good job of harassing Sean Chambers and making him take off on the run after a quick read. Even with the Bobcats having a good defensive line I think the Wyoming offensive line was still a better unit. This week should be all about shoving the Huskies around the field. I’d also like to see more of the fourth quarter Sean Chambers. He was confident, accurate, and marched the team right down the field with ease.
Does the Northern Illinois win on the road vs Georgia Tech make you more or less hopeful of Wyoming’s success on Saturday?
I don’t think it tells us a lot. I was listening to a podcast earlier this week with The Athletic’s Andy Staples and he mentioned how Georgia Tech has possibly regressed under Geoff Collins’ coaching. He also mentioned the difficulty of the job being in SEC country and recruiting against those schools, and transitioning the team (still) from the triple option to a more conventional offense. Northern Illinois last turned in a decent season back in 2018. Last season, in an abbreviated season, they were winless. I think Wyoming is probably still the more talented team and NIU is getting a lot of credit for beating a bad ACC team on the road. I’m hopeful for a Wyoming road win on Saturday.
Off the wall thought or bold prediction?
I think the Cowboy offense recovers this week and Sean Chambers breaks the 250 yards passing mark and Xazavian Valladay will rush for over 100 yards.
Wyoming 28 – Northern Illinois 17
What did you learn about the offense last week?
To no surprise, the offense under Tim Polasek looks a lot like the offense under Brent Vigen. Yet, I liked what I saw in terms of the variety in formations and the different types of runs and passes we saw out of them. I’m sure the offense we saw last week against the Bobcats was more of the vanilla variety and we will see even more expansive plays and concepts going forward. I was a bit harsh on Chambers last week on Twitter he has missed quite a bit of time and hasn’t played a full game since October of 2019 before last week. He will need to keep improving though and make the basic throws when guys are open. If Chambers can do this on a consistent basis, along with the strong running game, Wyoming can have a middle-of-the-road Mountain West offense which is plenty good enough considering the strength of the defense.
Are Wyoming’s road struggles real?
I would say they are very much real. Wyoming is 6-11 on the road under Bowl the last three seasons. This 6-11 record includes a 1-7 record in their last 8 road games and that lone win was against a hapless UNLV program. The good news over that same three-year span the Huskies are only 6-7 at home so Husky Stadium isn’t some kind of impenetrable fortress. Wyoming will need to run the ball, pass when they need to (in key situations) and win the turnover battle to beat the Huskies on the road. Bohl said that the biggest improvement a team makes is between game 1 and game 2 of a season and Wyoming will need that improvement to happen to avoid a 1-8 road record in their last 9 road games.
Off the wall thought or bold prediction:
Georgie tech ran the ball last week for 273 yards on 52 carries for an average of 5.2 yards per carry. With improved offensive line play, I think Wyoming can get Valladay, Smith and Sween going for over 200 Wyoming rushing yards. The Huskies struggled last year versus the run as well giving up 178 yards or more in 4 of their 6 games.
I don’t like picking the Pokes on the road because as I covered above, they are 6-11 in road games the last three seasons under Bohl. Yet, I think the Northern Illinois run defense is so porous that Wyoming will do enough to control the clock and keep the scoring down.
Wyoming 20 – Northern Illinois 17