Game Preview- Utah at Wyoming

The Utes are flying high and travel to Laramie to take on an inconsistent Wyoming team...

Facts and Factors

No. 11/10 Utah (5-0, 2-0 MWC) returns to league play on Saturday, Oct. 16 against Wyoming (2-4, 0-2 MWC) in Laramie. Kickoff is 4 p.m. MT in War Memorial Stadium. The game will be televised by The Mtn. Radio is ESPN700 AM (espn700sports.com).

Utah remained at No. 10 in the USA Today Coaches poll. Despite scoring the most points against an Iowa State team on its home field since the Cyclones began playing football 108 years ago, Utah slipped one place to No. 11 in the Associated Press poll.

Utah is off to its third 5-0 start in the last seven years (the Utes finished 12-0 in 2004 and 13-0 in 2008).

Utah would become bowl eligible with a win over Wyoming on Saturday. The Utes have played in seven straight bowl games, going 7-0 in postseason play since 2003.

Utah has surpassed 50 points in its last three games and is averaging 49.0 points per game. The school record for single-season scoring average is 45.33 ppg set in 2004.

Utah leads the nation in kickoff returns (31.17 average), sacks allowed (1, tied with Boise State) and tackles for loss allowed (11). Utah also ranks first nationally in sack yardage allowed (4) and TFL yardage allowed (33).

With last week's win over Iowa State, Utah improved to 21-11 against BCS conference teams and its 21 wins is the most by a NAQ conference team since the BCS began in 1998. Kyle Whittingham is 12-4 against BCS teams and 2-0 this year.

In the third-longest series in school history, Utah leads Wyoming 50-31-1. The Utes trail Wyoming 20-18 in Laramie, but have won four of the last five and six of the last nine games in Laramie, following nine straight losses in War Memorial Stadium from 1974-89.

Jordan Wynn and Shaky Smithson were named the MWC Offensive and Special Teams Players of the Week for their roles in Utah's 68-27 victory over Iowa State. Wynn, in winning his first career MWC weekly award, passed for 325 yards and two touchdowns while orchestrating the biggest scoring output by a Utah team in 27 years. Smithson won his third award of the season and his career after rolling up 261 all-purpose yards, including 145 on punt returns and a career-high 75 receiving yards. He also threw a touchdown pass and caught a TD pass … J.J. Williams (foot, missed Pitt, UNLV, UNM, SJS, ISU) is listed as doubtful for this week's game at Wyoming ... Running back Sausan Shakerin saw action for the first time of the year last week after missing the first four games due to a concussion and rushed for 24 yards and a touchdown … Making his first appearance as a Ute against Iowa State was junior defensive end Tevita Finau. Finau (6-5, 298), a transfer from Phoenix College who has two years to play two, enrolled in classes and joined the team on Sept. 24, the Friday prior to the San Jose State game. He is in the three deep this week at left end … 14 Utes have scored touchdowns this season … Utah has collected seven MWC Player of the Week citations to date: DeVonte Christopher (offense, Sept. 6), Brian Blechen (defense, Sept. 6); Smithson (special teams, Sept. 13, Sept. 20, Oct. 11), Lamar Chapman (defense, Sept. 20) and Wynn (offense, Oct. 11) … Six true freshmen have played: Blechen, Wykie Freeman, Mike Honeycutt, Joe Kruger, Westlee Tonga and Michael Walker.

When Utah has the Ball

The Utah offense has hit overdrive and there's no reason to think a lowly Wyoming defense is going to slow them down for any reason. After putting up 68 points on Iowa State last week, the Utes are now averaging 60 in their last three games, and are second in the country in scoring at 49 points per game.

Jordan Wynn was spectacular against Iowa State in going 23-31 for 325 yards and two touchdowns. He seems to be headed towards stardom and some are already calling him the best quarterback in the Mountain West (although I'd vouch for Andy Dalton and Ryan Lindley at this point). The secondary for Wyoming isn't bad, but they're not great either. If Wynn is as accurate as he was last week, he, and the Utes should have a big day.

Eddie Wide and Matt Asiata continue to be solid, but not spectacular. Sausan Shakerin made his return to the lineup last week and looked good. If he can refrain from shattering every bone in his body when getting hit, as has happened in the past, he might be the running back to break the long run that I've been clamoring for since the second game of the season.

The offensive line shouldn't have much trouble pushing around a small Wyoming defensive line that can't stop the run giving up almost 250 yards per game. Utah should have no trouble running for 200+ yards for the third straight game. Wyoming only has 5 sacks on the season so Jordan Wynn should stay clean and injury free again. If Wyoming registers even one sack, I'll be surprised.

The receiving corp for the Utes stepped up in a big way last week, led by DeVonte Christopher, who had his typical big game following a poor game. Don't expect a ton of catches out of Chrstopher this week. Wyoming does bring an experienced secondary led by safeties Chris Prosinski and Gary Shamiel. Prosinski was a preseason All MWC first teamer and Shamiel is 9th in the country in tackles per game. Jordan Wynn had most of his success against Iowa State throwing to the sidelines. He might want to stick with that same gameplan this week.

Advantage: Utah

When Wyoming has the ball

Statistically, Wyoming might be the worst offensive team in the country. They're dead last in the country in total offense per game putting up only 240.6 yards. Some of that is likely due to the caliber of opponent they have faced to this year, but the offensive unit for the Cowboys is downright bad.

They're currently last in the nation in rushing at only 69 yards per game. Running back Alvester Alexander leads the team with 46 yards per game, but isn't much of a threat running behind a weak offensive line. Linebackers Chaz Walker, Chad Manis, and Matt Martinez are getting better every week and shouldn't have any problems shutting down the weak Wyoming rushing attack. The Utes currently rank 18th in the country against the run giving up only 103 yards per game.

They're not much better throwing the ball behind sophomore Austyn Carta-Samuels, ranking 98th passing the ball. David Leonard was an All MWC preseason selection, but hasn't lived up to that honor so far this season with only 22 catches. The Utes' pass defense is one of the best in the country ranking 17th at 163.6 yards per game. Carta-Samuels has been know to throw a few interceptions before and the Utah defense was very opportunistic in picking off two Iowa State pass last week. They should keep the momentum going with at least one more out of the secondary. Brandon Burton will likely be lined up against Leonard in most formations.

The offensive line for Wyoming is somewhat undersized and has a few players with little to no experience. The Utes ends and tackles should have a field day in shutting down the run and getting to Austyn Carta-Samuels. Sealver Siliga and Dave Kruger should have big days and Junior Tui'one will be lined up against an inexperienced right tackle. If he's going to have a game with multiple sacks, this is going to be it.

This is really a two man team offensively with Austyn Carta-Samuels and David Leonard. Carta-Samuels was a dual-threat last year, but hasn't done much running this season with just over 100 yards per game. For the Cowboys to have any chance, Carta-Samuels and Leonard have to play out of their minds.

Advantage: Utah

Special Teams

Is there a better special teams unit in the country than the one that Utah is currently putting on the field? The Utes are first in the country in kick return average and third in punt return average. Kicker Joe Phillips is perfect on the year and Sellwood would be a top 10 punter nationally if he had enough punts to qualify. Wyoming punter Austin McCoy is Sellwood's biggest challenger as best punter in the conference, but outside of that Wyoming doesn't have much. Wyoming ranks 101st in the nation in punt return yardage allowed per return at almost 14 yards per kick. Shaky Smithson must be salivating. If he gets any space, he's gone.

Advantage: Utah

Intangibles

Wyoming has had arguably the toughest year of any school in the country with the death of freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse to a car accident. Put that on top of already playing 4 ranked teams, including 3 in the top 10, and now a Utes team that is averaging 60 points per game in their last three games, and it's only going to get worse. Temperatures should be around 60 degrees and sunny at kickoff playing into the hands of the Utes. The worse the weather gets, the better for Wyoming. The warmer and sunnier, the better is is for the Utes. Wyoming coach Dave Christensen is 0-8 at Wyoming against ranked teams including 0-5 at home. Utah has not lost a game in the month of October since 2006 (13 straight games). Advantage: Utah

Prediction

It's another mismatch for the Utes in their favor. This might even be a bigger mismatch than it appears on paper. The Utes are playing like one of the top 5 teams in the country and won't be slowed down in Laramie. The inefficiencies of Wyoming, especially on the offensive side of the ball are too extreme for them to keep pace. Utah is going to put up over 450 yards of offense, get a defensive or special teams touchdown, and cruise to a big victory while holding Wyoming under 200 yards.

Utah 55 Wyoming 10


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