When the Mountain West football schedule was released in March, we knew Saturday’s matchup between Fresno State and Wyoming had the potential to be a big game.
It might be bigger than what was anticipated. So much so that the game will be nationally televised at 8 p.m. ET on FOX.
Not only are these two of the top teams in the MW, but they’re two of the top teams in Group of Five. They’ve both had success against Power 5 programs this season and have pulled out wins in close games. Wyoming has had a much tougher schedule. The Bulldogs’ last four opponents have a combined record of 4-16.
However, they have relied on different styles to find success.
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Behind its stout offensive line, UW has been its usual self when it comes to running the ball. The Cowboys currently rank third in the league, rushing for 182.4 YPG. This number could be higher if RB Harrison Waylee wasn’t out for two weeks to start the season. In the three weeks since returning, he’s put up 457 yards and three scores.
Wyoming will be going up against what might be the best rush defense it has faced yet this season with the Bulldogs allowing just 93.2 rushing YPG — almost half of what the Cowboys put up.
It’s probably safe to say they’ll try and force Wyoming QB Andrew Peasley to beat them.
On the other hand, the Cowboys are going up against a prolific offense led by UCF transfer Mikey Keene who ranks second in the league with 294 passing YPG and has already tossed 14 TDs this season.
Stopping Keene from slinging the ball around will be the biggest key for Wyoming’s defense. If the defensive line can get to Keene and disrupt him, that’ll be a huge win for the Cowboys. Their 11 sacks thus far are average, but they have proven they’re capable of getting after the QB.
Erik Brooks has become Keene’s favorite target and suffered his first bad game of the season last week against Nevada where he was banged up. He will be back fully healthy this week. Brooks will be the key guy for Wyoming’s secondary to slow down.
The Bulldogs average 36.4 points per game this season and the high-powered attack has been on display in almost every game. UW’s defense doesn’t look the greatest on paper, but it has shown up and made game-winning plays this season:
It’ll need a few of those plays this weekend.
Fresno State Wyoming Prediction
The Bulldogs are 6-1 against the Cowboys as members of the MW and have won the last four matchups. Fresno has outscored UW 47-0 in the last two meetings.
Will this game be any different?
I don’t expect the Cowboys to get shut out or smoked again this time around, but it’s hard to trust them to win against the top-tier members of the league.
College football betting odds have the Bulldogs favored by 4.5 points and the total at 44.5. I think the Cowboys can cover this spread, especially because this game will likely have to go under the total if they want to win, and I’m sure Craig Bohl and Co. are itching for a win over Fresno.
This game starts off a brutal stretch for the Pokes as they visit Air Force and Boise in their next two contests, even though the games are split by a bye week. It’ll be a stretch that can dictate UW’s season.
For Fresno, it will play Utah State and UNLV before hosting Boise State. If they win this week and defeat Boise, the Bulldogs will probably be playing in their second straight MW title game and fourth in seven years.