BYU Cougars (8-4 SU, 9-3 ATS) vs. Wyoming Cowboys (8-5 SU, 8-5 ATS)
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Date/Time: Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 9PM EST
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: BYU -8.5/WYO +8.5
Over/Under Total: 56
The BYU Cougars meet the Wyoming Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego in the Poinsettia Bowl on December 21. Both teams notched 8-win seasons. Foy BYU, they had an awfully tough schedule with some ups and downs this year. They closed with four straight wins to enter this game with some needed momentum. Wyoming was able to dust off the sour taste of a really bad run in recent seasons to win their division and get to the MWC title game, which they lost to San Diego State on December 3 in their last game.
For the Cowboys, this was a big turnaround season for a team that had found itself struggling in recent years. You donít want to get too critical with a team like that considering where they came from and how coach Craig Bohl got them on the right trackóno easy task. Be that as it may, the season closed a bit unevenly for the Cowboys. In their last four games, they lost a 69-66 battle-royale to a 3-win UNLV team, beat San Diego State by a point, got clobbered, 56-35, by New Mexico, before losing to San Diego State in the title game.
Wyoming saw a big boost on the offensive side of the ball this season, bolstered by a good line and the standout play of QB Josh Allen and RB Brian Hill. Allen threw for nearly 3000 yards this season, tossing 26 touchdown passes, while running in 7 scores. Wyoming was really able to run the ball this season, with Hill racking up a 1767 yards with 21 touchdowns. Aerially, the main target for Allen was Tanner Gentry, one of the best in the conference with 1213 yards. He was joined by Jacob Hollister and Jake Mualhardt. All told, the Cowboys averaged 37.1 points per game. Beyond the stats is the character of a team able to rise from the ashes, as that should also be taken into account. And while the Las Vegas Bowl might be a less-exciting bowl for BYU, this is a big deal for a Wyoming team that has been on the outside looking in lately.
The Wyoming defense was not a top group this season and as we pointed out earlier with them allowing so many points late in the season, they are not improving. In fact, theyíre getting worse. At the end of the day, theyíre the nationís 112th ranked defense, one of the worst of any team that managed this many wins on the season. Wyoming allowed an average of nearly 35 points a game this season. To their credit, they did get 25 turnovers and score several touchdowns, while applying a good pass-rush. For their lack of robustness, at least they can make plays. Kevin Prosser gets after the QB, while Marcus Epps, Antonio Hull, and Logan Wilson were key in getting interceptions and making key plays for this unit.
Kalani Sitake has a successful season, his first as BYU head coach. The home-spun feel with a bunch of former players serving as assistants seemed to help, as this team has a lot of brotherhood. As has usually been the case in recent seasons, their early-season was filled with close games that could have gone either way. In their four losses, they were defeated by a total of 8 combined points. But they closed the season in strong fashion, with four straight wins where opponents scored a combined 29 points.
The Brigham Young offense was led by QB Taysom Hill, who can throw and run the ball very well. His aerial numbers might not have inspired, with his 12/12 TD-to-INT ratio. But he did throw for 2323 yards, while running for 600 yards and 8 touchdowns. The passing-attack underachieved to some extent, especially with Ty Detmer in his first season as O.C. With Hill out after a leg injury, it now falls into the hands of Tanner Mangum, who thrived in spots this season, while starting almost all of last season. More should have been yielded from their pass-catching crew of Nick Kurtz, Colby Pearson, Mitchell Juergens, and others and Mangum was able to do that last season, though heís not nearly the runner that Hill is. But the Cougars can run the ball, led by Jamaal Williams and his 1165 yards on the ground. In games against good teams, their offense never really took over the game, relying on an efficient running offense and leaning on a good defense. Maybe Mangum can extract more out of the receiving corps.
BYU allowed less than 20 points a game on average in the 2016 season. They really shined on run-defense and overcame some personnel issues to become a strong unit. And unlike Wyoming, they were playing better at seasonís end. On the season, they secured a massive 29 turnovers, scored several touchdowns, and applied a decent pass-rush for most of the season. Getting after the quarterback was Sae Tautu, while Kai Nacua was key with 5 picks, along with Fred Warner and Francis Bernard making a ton of plays in the middle.
BYU ended the season stronger and played the better teams, while no team was able to dominate them all season long. Conversely, Wyoming had a great year, but one that ended on a weaker note. In other words, BYU didnít do things like give up 69 points to UNLV or lose by three TDs to teams like Colorado State. But Wyoming should be expected to put forth a strong effort and BYU isnít built for dominating teams of this caliber. Iím taking the points.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Iím betting on the Wyoming Cowboys plus 8.5 points.
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