Michigan State at Oregon is being hailed as the non-conference matchup of the year. But what if a team had to play Oregon in Eugene and Michigan State in East Lansing in the span of three weeks? That is the fate befallen on the Wyoming Cowboys, who face both squads in the month of September.
Despite returning 18 starters, change is the theme of the new season for Wyoming. The Cowboys have a new head coach, Craig Bohl, who led North Dakota State to three straight 1-AA titles. They'll have a new quarterback, whether it be senior Colby Kirkegaard or sophomore Tom Thornton. And they'll have new systems on offense (West Coast) and defense (4-3) that will all take time to get acclimated to.
2013 Record: 5-7, 2-5 MWC
Bowl Result: N/A
Blog Representation: Mountain West Connection
Series With Wyoming: First Meeting
Last Oregon win: N/A
Last Wyoming win: N/A
While a lot returns on the offense, the loss of quarterback Brett Smith is a big blow. There will be a competition at the QB position between Kirkegaard and Thornton Thornton, a sophomore, is the younger of the two, so one would think that Kirkegaard would need to win the job decisively to be the man.
Whoever wins the job will have two key weapons at their disposal. Running back Shaun Wick rushed for nearly 6 yards per carry a season ago, ending up just shy of a thousand for the season. He should get there this year. Reciever Dominic Rufran caught 75 balls last year, and should be one of the better targets in the MWC. 47 starts return on the offensive line, so it's a relatively experienced unit.
This was an underwhelming unit last year, but a unit that really underperformed its talent. They should be better under Bohl, but that will largely depend on the play of the quarterback. Whoever it is will be starting their first ever road game in Autzen Stadium. Other than Kellen Moore and Kevin Hogan, that hasn't worked out well for a lot of guys.
This unit will make the switch to a 4-3 under Bohl. They return five experienced defensive linemen, including All-Conference player Eddie Yarbrough. They really have two things going against them. They can't stop the pass--they get no pass rush and allowed the second highest completion percentage (69%) in the country last season. Marcus Mariota must be licking his chops. But the all play Air Force the week before playing Oregon. They can't even think about Oregon even a little early because they have to prepare for the triple option.
Wyoming Special Teams:
Ethan Wood is a really good punter (42 yard average), but their kicking is mediocre. They don't have very good return or coverage units.
Wyoming will start a quarterback making his first road start. They don't get into the backfield defensively, and have to play Oregon coming off Air Force's triple option the week before. Wyoming wins if Marcus Mariota has to play in the fourth quarter. Oregon wins going away.