The Wyoming Cowboys come to Provo on Saturday hoping to settle a few scores with BYU before the Cougars get out of Dodge by going independent.
After all, BYU has owned Wyo as of late, outscoring them 96-0 in the last two meetings.
In fact the record shows that the Cowboys have just two wins against BYU in their last 17 tries.
The Cowboys would dearly love to give BYU the same sending-off they received from Air Force and TCU.
Although just 2-5, the Pokes have faced what just might be the toughest schedule of any team in the country thus far.
Of Wyoming’s five losses, three have come against teams ranked in the Top 10 of the current BCS standings, including No. 3 Boise State, No. 5 TCU and No. 9 Utah.
Their other two losses were at No. 19 Texas and against an Air Force team that has been ranked as high as 23rd in both the AP and USA Today polls this season.
In the game at Austin, the Cowboys hung with the Longhorns and even led in the game until late in the first half.
Against Air Force, Wyoming led the same Falcon team that dismantled BYU into the fourth quarter before falling 20-14 in Laramie.
While these programs have traditionally been world’s apart, these team haven’t been this season.
The odds makers have a struggling BYU team, itself just 2-5 on the season, as a 10.5-point favorite, meaning that factoring in for home field advantage they see the Cougars as about a touchdown better than the Cowboys.
That might be generous considering BYU’s offense is averaging barely two touchdowns a game.
On the surface, the Cowboys look like they may finally have their best chance in years to get out of Provo with a win.
Not so fast my friend…
Why BYU Takes This Game
1) Wyoming is last in the country at stopping the run.
Word is out that the Cougars will employ a run-first mentality on offense with play action passes coming off the run game.
JJ Di Luigi should have a good game on Saturday. Unlike last week at TCU, he will be able to make some things happen in space against the Cowboys. Also expect a good day from Bryan Kariya attacking the middle of the Cowboy defensive front.
The Cougars’ stated new approach to offense also gives quarterback Jake Heaps the best chance of having success in the passing game.
Against BYU’s next four opponents the Cougars should be able to control the line of scrimmage, use the running game to set up the pass and create manageable third down situations.
2) Bronco Mendenhall called out the offense this week.
Bronco had an all-hands-on-deck meeting with the offense in which specific players were call out and expectations clearly defined. By all accounts those players have responded to the call in practices throughout the week.
Mendenhall has also reportedly had a pow wow with the offensive coaches in which the gantlet was essentially thrown down. The head coach certainly seems to be retaking this entire team. Expect much more effort, a crisper performance and more effective play calling from the BYU offense in this game.
3) The BYU defense will be ready to go.
The practices have been brutal this week for the Cougar defense as Mendenhall has continued to ratchet up the intensity.
Since Bronco has taken over as defensive coordinator, BYU has gone from the worst defense in the country against the run to giving up an average of just 80.5 yards against SDSU and TCU.
That number would currently rank fourth in the nation.
Wyoming comes into the game as the 119th rushing team in the country, gaining just 69 yards per outing. Overall the Pokes are averaging a paltry 232 yards per game, that’s the worst offensive output in the nation.
4) The game is in Provo.
Wyoming hasn’t won a game in Provo since a 29-27 win in 1987. That’s the only win for the Cowboys on BYU’s home turf in the last 33 years.
Even though both teams come in with 2-5 records, do the Cowboy players really believe down deep in their gut that they can take out BYU in LaVell Edwards Stadium? Wyoming has a huge mental bar to clear here.
5) This a statement game for BYU.
A loss to Wyoming at home would be a devastating blow for this program and would quickly usher in basketball season in Provo.
You get the sense from the players and coaches that they are committed to righting the ship and making it to the post-season. These players do not want to be the first Mendenhall-coached team to not make it to a bowl.
Expect a different attitude all the way around this week.
Prediction: BYU 30 Wyoming 10