An old rivalry is renewed in the old town square as the no. 19 BYU Cougars take on the upstart Wyoming Cowboys. The Cougars are thrilled to be back home after a brutal loss at the hands of world no. 15 Oregon Ducks, but face a tough test against the 3-1 Pokes. Here are five things to know about the matchup with the Cowboys.
1. Back in the saddle
Wyoming is on a roll as they come to Provo, despite losing 10 key contributors to the transfer portal this offseason. Coming off a 38-6 loss to Illinois in Week Zero, the Cowboys have posted three straight wins over Tulsa, Northern Colorado and Air Force, with the last of the three being particularly impressive. Running back Titus Swen rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown as Wyoming beat the Falcons 3-0. Wyoming is already 3-1 on the year despite ESPN’s FPI predicting a full-season win total of just over five games. In short, the Poke are much better than we expected.
2. There is no stampede zone
Wyoming’s success begins and ends with solid run defense. The Cowboys are allowing just 2.5 yards per carry during their 3-game winning streak and held the Air Force 230 yards below their season average. This will prove to be a major test for BYU’s running game. BYU has struggled a lot over the past two weeks, though those struggles have been against two of the best defensive fronts in the country. BYU’s frontcourt is more talented than Wyoming’s on paper, but if the Cougars have a hard time moving the ball down the floor again, it might be time to hit the panic button on BYU’s running game.
3. New sheriff in town
BYU fans should remember Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley as he leads the Cowboys’ offense on Saturday night. Peasley previously faced the Cougars last season when he suited up for Utah State, throwing for 7-for-38 yards and an interception in relief of the injured Logan Bonner. Peasley has had a rocky start for the Pokes. He was just 5/20 for 30 yards in Game 1 against Illinois, but he seems to be moving in the right direction, completing 69% of his passes for nearly 7 yards per attempt in his last three games.
He has struggled with shooting and against pressure this season, completing less than 50% of his passes in those settings. Wyoming will do its best to beat BYU on the ground, but forcing Peasley to make plays with his arm will bode well for the Cougars.
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4. Gunslinger’s Delight
Wyoming has struggled against the pass this season. They have allowed an average of 228 yards in four games this season, including one against a team running the triple option. Reports indicate that both Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua practiced this week, but even if they can’t go, I like Jaren Hall’s chances of extending his 250-yard passing streak to eight on Saturday.
5. This town is not big enough for the two of us.
The BYU-Wyoming rivalry is historic, if not lopsided, over the past 50 years. BYU has won 34 of the last 41 matchups against the Pokes and has currently won 8 in a row since 2004. Wyoming is one of the few Mountain West schools that had not been scheduled to play the Cougars in the independence era, as they certainly had some sick. feelings after leaving BYU. The only BYU-Wyoming matchup of the independence era came in 2016 at the Poinsettia Bowl. Here’s hoping Saturday serves as a reminder of why they stopped programming BYU in the first place.
Wyoming is really good at keeping games ugly. Games involving the Cowboys average a total of just 48.8 total points scored over the last two seasons. Wyoming will take Oregon’s approach in trying to beat BYU down the middle with a vertical running game. Titus Swen is an extremely physical running back who will test BYU’s ability to tackle in the holes. Wyoming will be forced to be conservative in the passing game, keeping short and intermediate passes to tight ends in hopes of breaking up tackles. Ultimately, BYU’s defense redeems its performance from last week, forcing multiple turnovers as Wyoming is forced to throw the ball to keep up.
Meanwhile, BYU is still having trouble managing football, at least at first. Roderick will start using the jet sweep again to stretch the Wyoming defense, while he lets Jaren Hall cook up big passes over the top. Ultimately, BYU’s offensive line begins to assert its will on him as BYU pulls away in the second half.
BYU 38, Wyoming 14