Brigham Young (8-4) vs Wyoming (8-5)
When: Wednesday, December 21st 2016
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
Time: 9:00 ET | TV: ESPN
Old Mountain West Conference foes will square off in this year’s Poinsettia Bowl when the Wyoming Cowboys take on the BYU Cougars on Wednesday night in San Diego. BYU left the MWC in 2010 and won the last seven meetings with Wyoming and own a 44-30-3 lead in the series. The Cougars are appearing in their 12th straight Bowl game, but have not won since beating San Diego State in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl 23-6. Quarterback Taysom Hill when down in the last game with a season-ending injury for the fourth time in five years, but the Cougars fortunately have an experienced backup in sophomore Tanner Mangum. He completed 59.9% of his passes for 3,377 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a freshman while replacing Hill, who missed all but the first half of last season’s opener with a fractured foot. BYU senior Jamaal Williams rushed for 1,165 and 11 TDs despite missing three of the last five games with an ankle injury and will go up against a Wyoming defense that allowed 34.8 points a game. Williams rushed for 618 yards and nine scores in a three-game stretch versus West Virginia, Toledo and Michigan State this season, including a school-record five TDs and a career-high 286 yards against Toledo. Only one of the Cougars’ eight victories came against a winning FBS team (9-3 Toledo) while the four-game winning streak they ride saw them outscore clubs with a combined 15-32 record 136-29, including 37-7 over FCS member Southern Utah (6-5). BYU’s four losses to Utah, UCLA, West Virginia and Boise State were by a combined eight points while their victories include Arizona, Michigan State and Cincinnati on the road, along with Mississippi State and Toledo at home.
Head coach Craig Bohl has turned the Wyoming program around in his third season and received a contract extension on December 2nd that takes him through the 2023 season. Bohl made a name for himself by coaching North Dakota State to three consecutive FCS titles from 2011-13 before taking on the challenge of bringing the Cowboys back to respectability. Bohl was 6-18 in his first two seasons before nearly leading Wyoming to an MWC championship, losing to San Diego State 27-24 in the conference title game December 3rd. Bohl was named MWC Coach of the Year on November 30th. Cowboys junior Brian Hill rushed for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns – good for third and second, respectively, in the MWC, but faces a tough challenge in a Cougars’ rushing defense that is eighth in the country at 108.4 yards allowed per game. The Cowboys could find the going better through the air with sophomore quarterback Josh Allen (2,996 yards, 26 touchdown passes). Allen’s 13 interceptions are cause for concern, however. Senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry (18.7 yards per 65 receptions, 12 touchdowns) is Allen’s favorite target while senior tight end Jacob Hollister has seven TDs among his 30 receptions. Wyoming’s non-conference schedule included a 40-34 triple-overtime victory over Northern Illinois and a 52-17 loss at Nebraska.
Wyoming has been a nice story this year, but BYU is more battle tested and has a better overall defense that will be the difference in this game. I can’t see Wyoming running the ball very much and Allen is prone to mistakes when pressured. It’s a big line, but one I think BYU can cover.
Pick: BYU -10