The Wyoming Cowboys have surprised everyone this year by not being a Mountain West punchline, except for when people are telling a joke about uniform colors. The Cowboys, behind the coaching of Dave Christensen and the quarterbacking of Brett Smith, enter Bronco Stadium on Saturday (noon MT, The Mtn) with a chance to capture second place in the conference ... or get their rear ends handed to them. The actual result of Saturday's game probably lies somewhere in the middle, although rear-handing would be in keeping with the season. Join me after the jump for a breakdown of the Wyoming - Boise State game.
Wyoming vs. No. 7 Boise State
- When to watch: Saturday, November 26, noon MT kickoff
- Where to watch: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Ida. (Capacity: 33,500)
- How to watch: Live on The Mtn. with Todd Harris and Todd Christensen
- How to find The Mtn: CableOne channel 329, DirecTV channel 616, and Dish Network channel Buffalo Wild Wings
- What to wager: Boise State by 32.5 points, combined score over/under 61 points
- What to wear: Forecast calls for partly cloudy skies, high of 41, 20 percent chance of precipitation
- How to score tickets: Buy one of the 1,500 available student tickets or try your luck on the ticket market
Keys to the game
Boise State needs to contain Wyoming QB Brett Smith. Moving on!
OK, so those highlights were against New Mexico, and New Mexico is the worst. But still, did you see the wheels on that kid? He's like a well-proportioned Colin Kaepernick who can pass.
And like Kaepernick and Nevada, as Smith goes, so goes the Wyoming offense. If the Cowboys can get 300 yards of total offense out of Smith on Saturday, they'll have a great chance to hang with the Broncos all afternoon. But if Smith struggles, there are few other playmakers on offense to bail him out. Take away Smith's rushing yardage (over 500 yards), and the Cowboys go from No. 32 in the country in rushing down to the eighties. It will take more than that to beat the Broncos. Like sharks, maybe.
On the other side of the ball, the Cowboys give up yards in bunches and yet avoid complete disaster only because of their propensity for turnovers. Wyoming has recovered 17 fumbles, which is an insane number. Boise State, which is seventh in the country in turnover margin compared to Wyoming's No. 2 rank, has recovered nine and very few at convenient times. Whoever wins the turnover battle on Saturday figures to have an edge, but also note where the turnovers occur. A drive-killing red zone fumble is infinity degrees worse than a long INT on third down.
Miscellaneous keys for Boise State
- Make a play on special teams. This is almost a given by this point in the season, so expect someone somehow to come up with a big special teams highlight on Saturday. A Kellen Moore fake punt? One can dream.
- Get Wyoming in third and long. The frustrating part of mobile quarterbacks is that they can pick up yards and first downs when plays break down. One way to combat that is to force the QB to pick up 10s and 20s of yards to keep the drive alive. It's not quite as easy.
- Keep everything in front of you on defense. Boise State's young secondary has yet to face a true dual-threat quarterback, and it bears monitoring how well the Bronco corners play the run-pass threat.
- Make the most of opportunities. Boise State had three short fields on its first three drives against SDSU last week, and instead of petering out and settling for field goals and a 9-0 lead, the Broncos scored touchdowns each time and put the game out of reach right away.
- Minimize negative plays on offense. Minimize to zero, preferably.
Miscellaneous keys for Wyoming
- Get creative on offense. Wyoming's style of offense can create big plays thanks to Dave Christensen's Dew-fueled gameplanning sessions. He comes up with some wild stuff, and you can bet he'll throw the kitchen sink at Boise State (Note: I believe the kitchen sink is code for center sneak).
- Don't panic. With a secondary on a steep learning curve, the Broncos are not designed to hold a lead very well. Exhibit A: TCU. Exhibit B: San Diego State.
Other things that may matter
- Crowd noise. The game is Thanksgiving weekend, and we've already been told that 1,500 fewer students will be in attendance. Will Bronco Nation push through its tryptophan haze?
What do you see as keys to the game for the Broncos and Aztecs? Think Boise State will struggle defending the pass again? Got any miscellaneous keys to the game that don't involve kickers? Share your thoughts in the comments.