In advance of MSU's game against Wyoming tomorrow, we sent some questions to Jeremy Mauss of the SB Nation blog Mountain West Connection to answer about the Cowboys. Jeremy was nice enough to answer them for us, and if you want to see our responses to his questions, just click here.
1. Wyoming looked good against Oregon for a half, but also barely beat an FCS team in Montana and an FAU team that was annihilated by Nebraska. Which team is the real Wyoming team?
This is a team built on toughness and they should that by stopping Oregon a few times and also driving 98 yards against them, but like you mentioned did not play well against Montana or FAU. The problem with Wyoming is that they lack the ability to score points, but have a pretty good defense. The FAU game is about where I'd say this Wyoming team is at, maybe a little bit better. The easy answer, at least at this point, is that Wyoming has a good defense, they have a solid running game but need help passing which is why scoring points is difficult for the Cowboys.
2. Who does the MSU defense need to keep track of on Wyoming's offense?
The running game is Wyoming's best chance to move the ball, and they have a duo of Shaun Wick and D.J. May. Wick is the starter and has averaged 101 yards per game and Wick contributes 55 a game and each have a pair of touchdowns. Both also get yards in chunks with May averaging 4.7 per game and Wick well over 6 yards per run, so if the running game can get into a groove then the Cowboys can chew clock and march down the field. The passing game is the big weakness with quarterback Colby Kirkegaard who is barely throwing over 200 yards per game and is at just 57 percent completing his passes, so teams are forcing him to throw and stacking the box to try to stop the running game.
3. The Cowboys have held all non-Oregon opponents to below 20 points this season. Is there something that allowed the Wyoming defense to put in such good performances against those teams, is it a function of the quality of those opponents, or a bit of both?
Even when factoring in the Oregon game, Wyoming is still middle of the pack nationally. Yes, it does help to play Air Force, Florida Atlantic and Montana, and the most impressive stat from any of those games was holding Air Force run-option attack to just 2.9 yards per carry and 151 overall. Air Force can usually run up 300 yards on even the best defensive units in the country. The Cowboys have a tough defensive line that harasses the opposing teams defensive line, and while they don't get those tackles for loss all that often they are quick to the ball and usually do not let runners get to the second level, well except for Oregon. Also, when teams get in the red zone the defense tightens up. The Wyoming defense only allows 43 percent of red zone possessions turn into touchdowns, or 9 of 17, which is good enough for being top third in the country. It all comes back to Craig Bohl bringing on toughness and his 4-3 defense, and while it may not show up a ton against Michigan State on Saturday, the defense will cause havoc for the Mountain West.
4. Craig Bohl is in his first year of coaching Wyoming, having moved there after coaching a decade at North Dakota State. Has the team looked significantly different under his leadership?
Prior head coach Dave Christensen upped the teams toughness when arrived to replace Joe Glenn and Craig Bohl ups that even more. Not only toughness but he brings a winning attitude that has never really been at Wyoming on a consistent basis. He brought over a lot of his staff from North Dakota State and they all were part of the three-straight FCS national titles. The players are believing that they can win and so far they are pulling out gutsy performances in their wins, and showed plenty of heart and played well against Oregon for part of the game. There are also no dumb penalties on this team. Christensen is famously known for his Mr. Howdy Doody rant against Air Force a few years ago, and there were multiple excessive celebration of personal fouls by former quarterback Brett Smith, but those things seem to be gone and this team is more disciplined.
5. Lastly, this is the piece mandated by law where you give a prediction.
Wyoming probably will be a pest for about a half towards Michigan State, but I see the end result being 41-17 in favor of the Spartans.