While most of everything didn't work well against TCU two weeks ago, the run game did relatively well, as Harvey Unga averaged 5.9 yards per carry on 21 rushes. It could be argued that BYU having to play catch-up with TCU could have inflated Unga's numbers a bit, since the Horned Frogs weren't defending the run like they normally would. Regardless, BYU has been running the ball extremely well here of late.
The Cowboys are fairly average in defending the run so far this season, giving up 142 yards per game. While no team has romped over them on the ground, most teams have been able to mount productive ground gains.
Wyoming operates out of a 3-4 base defensive package which highlights preseason All-MWC selection defensive end John Fletcher (6-6, 265 Sr.). The Cowboys' two leading tacklers are their two sophomore inside linebackers Brian Hendricks (6-1, 223) and Gabe Knapton (6-3, 238).
The story here looks to be how much BYU will run the football, and by reading into Coach Mendenhall's comments following the TCU game, that answer would be ‘a lot.' BYU's offensive front has been very apt in pushing around opposing defensive fronts for the most part this season, and with Mendenhall stating that the TCU game will likely usher in dramatic scheme changes much like the San Diego State game back in 2005, fans may have reason to expect more rush attempts since that was the big change that came about in 2005.
Should offensive coordinator Robert Anae further dedicate the offense to running the football, then they should see some good success considering the factors going in. BYU should be able to average more than four yards per carry against a defense that has given up an average of 3.8 yards per rush this season.
Look for Unga to be featured much more in this game than he was against the Horned Frogs in an effort to open up a passing attack that really bogged down against TCU. Considering all the factors going in, fans can expect about 200 yards rushing during Saturday's game.
BYU passing offense vs. Wyoming
The Cougar passing attack is in much need of redemption after a very uncharacteristic showing against the Horned Frogs. The return of McKay Jacobson should go a long way in helping out with this. Jacobson will open things up while stretching the field by running the type of patterns that can beat man-on-man coverages.
Wyoming's productiveness in defending the pass closely mirrors its production in defending the run, in that the Cowboys appear to be somewhat average if not below average in this area. They give up 229.5 yards per game through the air and have yet to face a truly prolific passing attack outside of Texas, which threw for 353 yards against them.
The Cowboys field a relatively inexperienced secondary in starting a freshman, a sophomore and two juniors in the defensive backfield. They do like to blitz and Fletcher will have to be accounted for, although he doesn't come close to presenting the problems that Hughes for TCU did two weeks ago.
Nothing has been quite as consistent for the Cougars over the past few years as their passing attack. While Wyoming does present some challenges to the Cougar passing game, they don't hold a candle defensively to TCU.
Fans can therefore expect a return to normal with the Cougar passing game. Max Hall should approach 300 yards passing, while I do feel that the attempts will be somewhat limited compared to what they have been so far this year, as they'll look to run the football more.
BYU run defense vs. Wyoming
The Cougar run defense struggled against TCU, but has been mostly good this season. Romney Fuga has emerged as the primary run-stuffer on defense and should see the majority of reps again at nose tackle, even though Russell Tialavea has returned to the lineup.
The Cowboys run out of a spread formation with a single running back as their base formation. They'll split the carries between Brandon Stewart (5-11, 193 So.) and Alvester Alexander (5-11, 200 Fr.). Both runners have averaged more than four yards per carry, although Alexander has been a bit more effective in recent weeks.
The big challenge Wyoming may present with its running attack will be quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels (6-2, 210 Fr.), who doesn't hesitate to take off with the football on most passing plays and has accumulated a whopping 85 rushes so far this season.
While BYU should rebound to form by effectively defending the run up the middle, it's the edges where the Cougars will have to manage their containment better. Containment has been a huge issue for the Cougar defense the past two games, and fans can expect two weeks of preparation to have fixed this to a large degree.
Look for BYU to fare better on the edges this time around with Wyoming being somewhat effective in running the football. They've had a lot of practice with defending running quarterbacks so far this year, but look for Carta-Samuels to run at least as much as usual, as they'll try and exploit BYU's weakness in open-field pursuit and containment.
BYU pass defense vs. Wyoming
While the Cougars have more times than not struggled in defending the short underneath patterns to the flat, the last two games have seen a weakness in biting on misdirection and play action while subsequently struggling to defend the over-the-top pass. This has been a chief area of focus the past two weeks of practice, and we'll learn soon enough if they've fixed this area of defense.
The Cowboys present some big bodies in their base formation of three wideouts and one tight end. David Leonard (6-4, 197 Jr.) has clearly been Wyoming's most effective receiver this year and will give the Cougars all they can handle come Saturday.
Carta-Samuels has shown relatively well for a first-year starting freshman quarterback, completing 58 percent of his passes for an average of 147 yards per game. Wyoming is definitely a run-first offense, but will try to beat a defense deep and with a steady stream of mid-range and short passes to Leonard.
Don't look for BYU to be beat deep this week, as great strides have gone toward fixing the issues in defending the long pass this past week. Leonard is the worry here, as Wyoming will likely try to beat BYU with midrange passes toward the flat, and a greater emphasis on defending the long pass may lead to even softer coverage than BYU fans are used to.
I like BYU following a bye week after they were humiliated on the football field. The core of BYU football is still strong and this team has a lot of pride. Look for them to come out very strong and determined, and for them to give the Cowboys all they can handle.
Wyoming will present some problems with a running quarterback out of a spread formation and a distinct home field advantage. It shouldn't be enough, as a determined and more talented BYU team should prove to be too much.
Final Score: BYU 31, Wyoming 17