An old rivalry is renewed at Old Town Square as the No. 19 BYU Cougars take on the up-and-coming Wyoming Cowboys. The Cougars are thrilled to be back home after a brutal loss at the hands of the No. 15 Oregon Ducks, but face a tough test against the 3-1 Pokes. Here are five things you need to know about the standoff with the Cowboys.
1. Back in the saddle
Wyoming is having a bit of a hot streak as they step into Provo, despite losing 10 key transfer portal employees this offseason. After a 6-38 loss to Illinois in Week Zero, the Cowboys have had three straight wins against Tulsa, Northern Colorado and the Air Force, with the latter of the three being particularly impressive. Running back Titus Swen rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown as Wyoming defeated the Falcons 3-0. Wyoming is already 3-1 year-over-year, though ESPN’s FPI predicts an aggregate win of just over five games for the entire season. In short, the pokes are way better than we expected.
2. No Stampede Zone
Wyoming’s success begins and ends with a strong running defense. The Cowboys are giving up just 2.5 yards per carry during their 3-game winning streak and kept the Air Force 230 yards shy of their season average. This will prove to be an important test of BYU’s running game. BYU has fought mightily over the past two weeks, even though those battles have been fought against two of the country’s best defensive fronts. BYU’s front is more talented than Wyoming’s on paper, but if the Cougars are struggling to get the ball back on the ground, it might be time to hit the panic button for BYU’s quick attack.
3. New sheriff in town
BYU fans should remember Wyoming quarterback Andrew Peasley as he rides out to lead the Cowboys offense Saturday night. Peasley faced the Cougars last season, playing for Utah State, throwing for 38 yards on 7 attempts and intercepting to the relief of an injured Logan Bonner. Peasley had an up and down start for the pokes. He was only 5/20 for 30 yards in the opener against Illinois but appears to be moving in the right direction, completing 69% of his passes for nearly 7 yards per attempt in his last three games.
He’s struggled with downfield throws and pressure this season, completing well under 50% of his passes in those scenarios. Wyoming will do whatever it takes to beat BYU on the ground, but forcing Peasley to play with his arm will bode well for the Cougars.
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4. Gunslingers rejoice
Wyoming has struggled with pass this season. They have averaged 228 yards in four games this season, including one against a team running the triple option. Both Gunner Romney and Puka Nacua have reportedly been practicing this week, but even if they can’t go, I like Jaren Hall’s chances of extending his streak from 250 passing yards to eight on Saturday.
5. This town isn’t big enough for the two of us
The rivalry between BYU and Wyoming is a historic one, if not a one-sided one, over the past 50 years. BYU has won 34 of their last 41 matchups against the Pokes and currently has 8 straight wins since 2004. Wyoming is one of the few Mountain West schools that hadn’t planned on playing the Cougars in the independence era, as there were certainly some ill feelings following BYU’s departure. The only Independence-era matchup between BYU and Wyoming came in 2016 at the Poinsettia Bowl. Here’s hoping Saturday will serve as a reminder as to why they stopped planning BYU in the first place.
Wyoming is really good at keeping games ugly. Games involving the Cowboys have averaged just 48.8 total points over the past two seasons. Wyoming will take the Oregon approach by trying to beat BYU with a vertical run play down the middle. Titus Swen is an extremely physical defender who will test BYU’s ability to fight in the holes. Wyoming will be forced to be conservative in the passing game and keep throws short and medium to narrow in hopes they break up tackles. Ultimately, the BYU defense makes up for last week’s performance, forcing multiple turnovers as Wyoming is forced to throw the ball to keep up.
Meanwhile, BYU continues to struggle running football, at least initially. Roderick will use the jet sweep again to stretch the Wyoming defense while Jaren cooks up Hall for big throws over the top. In the end, BYU’s offense begins to have its way as BYU pulls away in the second half.
BYU 38, Wyoming 14