Week 8 Preview – BYU vs. Wyoming

The BYU defense, and somewhat the team at large, has been revitalized since Bronco Mendenhall resumed Defensive Coordinator responsibilities after the Utah State game.  That revitalization led to a win against San Diego State, and to a mostly impressive outing by the defense against TCU.  BYU heads into what is admittedly the soft underbelly of its Mountain West schedule over the next few weeks.  First up, Wyoming.

What we know about Wyoming

Wyoming is sitting at (2-5) for the year, and they have played one of the nation’s hardest schedules to date.  Their losses came against (rankings at the time) #5 Texas, #3 Boise St, Air Force (has been top 25 this year), #5 TCU, and #11 Utah.  They won by 5 points over Toledo, and by 8 points over Southern Utah.  The Cowboys are ranked 119th nationally in rushing yards, and points for, while they sport the 100th best passing yards.  BYU has won the last six games against Wyoming, and the last time Wyoming beat BYU in Provo was 1987.

What we know about BYU

BYU, like Wyoming, is (2-5) so far this season.  Like Wyoming, they have played some tough competition, with losses coming against Florida State, Air Force, #4 TCU, and Nevada.  They also lost to Utah State, but obviously that shouldn’t be in the same list.  Maybe not Nevada either.  So BYU’s losses weren’t as impressive as Wyoming’s list of losses.  Needless to say, both teams are eager to face what should be easier competition this Saturday.  BYU ranks 97th in passing yards, 82nd in rushing yards, 115th in points for, and 78th in points against.

Keys to the game

Jake Heaps and the Receivers. Word from BYU practice is that Bronco Mendenhall stepped over to have some words with the receivers and tight-ends.  He also called out a few players by name, encouraging them to step up or get out.  It will be interesting to see if/how that might play out on the field.  Heaps should have an easier time finding open receivers this week, though it remains to be seen if openness has anything to do with completion percentage.  Looking back at Wyoming’s wins and losses this year, they seem disposed to give up an equally large number of yards passing and rushing.

Closed Chambers. O’Neill Chambers will not drop any more passes.  He will not take a knee way too late.  He will never get that KR/PR touchdown he always talked about.  He will never again be suspended from BYU for ‘being competitive.’  He also will never help BYU to beat Utah again.  There are a lot of things he will never do again, because he has been indefinitely suspended, and is planning to transfer to another division I school.  He submitted a list of six schools that he’s considering.  I do feel sorry that this potentially great relationship has ended so badly.  Best of luck to O’Neill, and to whatever school decides to take him on.

The Rush Attack. Bronco Mendenhall shared this week that while in the past they have been a “pass first” team, currently they are a run first, play action team, with drop-back throws to take advantage of run defense.  The success of the run will alleviate pressure on the passing attack.  If the passing offense can gain some cohesion over the next few weeks, maybe those roles could reverse, or at least become more symbiotic.

Ball Control. In Bronco’s five wins (no losses) to Wyoming, the Cougars have completely dominated in the turnover department, 17-0.  If BYU can keep that 0 firmly in place, they should have no problem handling Wyoming.

It’s all about the D. The Cougars have shut out the Cowboys in the last two meetings, 52-0 last year, and 44-0 in 2008.  If Bronco can find some way to keep up the high intensity his defense showed against TCU during the first 28:30 last week, the defense should have its way with the Wyoming offense all day long.  If the Pokes are able to come up with some big plays though, watch out, because BYU’s confidence may shake easily.

Prediction

If they played according to their average offensive output, BYU would win 15-12.  If they played to their points against average, BYU would give up 28, and Wyoming 31, so BYU would win that way too.  In my season preview, I chose BYU over Wyoming, 49-6, but I do not believe the offense will do that much.

Yes, Wyoming has played a very difficult schedule, but I believe that BYU really is on the up-swing.  BYU’s defense will come into this game expecting to dominate Wyoming, and the Cougar offense will likely have a better output than they’re used to.  BYU wins this game 31-10.

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