The BYU Cougars square off against the Wyoming Cowboys on Wednesday, December 21st in the 2016 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. Kickoff inside Qualcomm Stadium is set for 9:00 EST Wednesday night with ESPN providing the television coverage.
BYU (8-4) is coming off another great season in the first year under head coach Kalani Sitake. The Cougars will now be making their 12th straight bowl appearance, though they will be looking for their first postseason win since beating San Diego State in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl.
Wyoming (8-5) was one of the biggest surprises in college football this season. The Cowboys were just 6-18 in Craig Bohl’s first two seasons, but Year 3 was a massive success. Bohl guided them to the MWC Championship Game, where they fell just three points short in a 27-24 loss to San Diego State.
There is really a massive gap in talent here as the Cougars should be better than the Cowboys at almost every position in this game. That’s why I’m willing to lay 8.5 points here. And they won eight games this season against a ridiculously tough schedule.
Indeed, the Cougars had to play the likes of Arizona, Utah, UCLA, West Virginia, Michigan State, Toledo, Michigan State, Boise State and Cincinnati in their first nine games to open the season. Amazingly, the Cougars were oh so close to being a 12-0 team as their four losses came by a combined eight points. They came to Utah (by 1), UCLA (by 3), WVU (by 3) and Boise State (by 1).
I have to give credit to Wyoming because it did have a great turnaround season, but I’m pretty sure that BYU will now be the best team that the Cowboys have faced this season. This is a Wyoming team that lost to Nebraska by 35 and New Mexico by 21. They also had bad losses to both Eastern Michigan and UNLV this season.
Amazingly, the Cougars were oh so close to being a 12-0 team as their four losses came by a combined eight points. They came to Utah (by 1), UCLA (by 3), WVU (by 3) and Boise State (by 1).
I realize that BYU will have to go with its backup quarterback here after Taysom Hill went down in the last game with a season-ending injury for the fourth time in five years. Fortunately, the Cougars have one of the most experienced backups in the country in sophomore Tanner Mangum.
Mangum completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 3,377 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a freshman while replacing Hill last year. Mangum also saw action in the team’s final three games of the season, completing 14-of-18 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns, so he comes in with plenty of experience.
This game will come down to which team stops the run better. Wyoming’s Brian Hill rushed for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns this season. But BYU has a rush defense that ranks 8th in the country, allowing just 108.4 yards per game and 3.4 yards per carry. The Cougars also only allow 19.4 points per game and 364 total yards per game.
BYU senior Jamaal Williams rushed for 1,165 yards and 11 touchdowns despite missing three of the last five games with an ankle injury. Now he’s in line for a huge game against a Wyoming defense that gives up 34.8 points per game, 464 yards per game and 6.6 yards per play. The Cowboys also give up 203 rushing yards per game and 5.3 per carry. Look for the Cougars to score at will in this one.
BYU is 6-0 ATS in non-conference road games this season. The Cougars are 8-0 ATS in their last eight road games after allowing 125 or fewer rushing yards in four straight games. BYU is 4-0 ATS in its last four vs. MWC opponents. The Cougars have gone 7-0 SU & 6-1 ATS in the last seven meetings. The Cowboys are 3-7 ATS in their last 10 non-conference games.