Fans in Provo, Utah have become accustomed to postseason play. The Brigham Young University Cougars have been in bowl games for 12 consecutive years. This year’s Poinsettia Bowl will be no different. However, this must feel more like a “what could have been” bowl game for BYU. The four games the Cougars have lost this season has been by a combined eight points.
Now, for the Wyoming Cowboys the 2016 season was all about resurgence. The Cowboys will be playing in their first bowl game since 2011 when they take on BYU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Wyoming will be looking to shake a late season swoon as they have lost three of four games heading into the bowl season.
POINSETTIA BOWL PREVIEW:
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, San Diego, California
BYU (8-4) vs. Wyoming (8-5)
December 21st, 9:00 PM EST
While close losses were the trend for BYU this season there were plenty of great moments for the Cougars. Maybe none were bigger and more opportune than the first two weeks in October. Although the Cougars were struggling with a 3-3 record, BYU would defeat back to back Power 5 conference teams to gain momentum for the season. Two victories against Michigan State and Mississippi State in as many weeks paved the way for the Cougars winning seven of their last eight games.
Conversely, for the Wyoming Cowboys the middle of the season was particularly good to them. This run of of five consecutive victories was highlighted by a 30-28 victory to defeat then undefeated Boise State. Terms like program defining and biggest win and thrown out often. However you want to define it, it was clear that victory was a turning point. Wyoming has two more wins this season (8) as it has in the last two seasons combined. (6-18)
WHEN BYU HAS THE BALL
This is a true strength against weakness scenario. BYU has ran the ball well this season, especially senior Jamaal Williams. He has over 1,100 yards on the season and will be looking to end his career at BYU on a high note. Whereas, Wyoming comes into the contest with the 88th ranked defense in the country. Specifically troubling is in losses to UNLV and New Mexico the Cowboys defense gave up 401 and 568 yards respectively. Look for a heavy dose of the run game from the Cougars to try to exploit that weakness.
WHEN WYOMING HAS THE BALL
Wyoming may need to make this game a track meet in order to win the contest. The bad news for Cowboys fans is that BYU comes into the game ranked ninth nationally against the run. But, the Cougars haven’t faced a team quite as good as this Wyoming team is on the offensive side of the ball. Quite possibly the best player in the country that you have never heard of is in the Cowboys backfield. Brian Hill has been a workhorse this season. He has rushed for over 1,700 yards and 21 touchdowns on the year. For the Cowboys to have a chance in this game, Hill will need to have a big game.
One of the biggest equalizers in bowl games is the mindset that teams come into these games with. After the bowl game hiatus from Wyoming, will they just be happy to be there? On the other side, will BYU feel this has an anti-climatic tone to the end of the season? Games like these can have a lasting effect on momentum and recruiting into the following season. This game is just not a good matchup for Wyoming. BYU will have the ability to exploit the weaknesses on the rushing defense of the Cowboys. Wyoming will need a great offensive performance to pull out the victory. While I do think that Wyoming will have some success on the offensive side of the ball, ultimately it will not be enough.