The Matchup: Wyoming Cowboys at No. 2 Oregon Ducks
Time and Place: 11:00 a.m., Autzen Stadium
TV: Pac-12 Networks
11:00 a.m.? Has there ever been at 11 a.m. start at Autzen Stadium? There will be this weekend, as the Wyoming Cowboys ride the Oregon Trail from Fort Laramie to the Willamette Valley for the early kickoff with the Oregon Ducks. The Cowboys will brave the dangers of the Oregon Trail--dysentary, cholera, and broken wagon tongues--for a fate far, far worse. While Wyoming is almost assured of losing--and losing big, there is a big carrot to be had in exchange: in 2017, Wyoming will almost assuredly be the last mid-major team to get a return game from the Ducks, in an arrangement that was scheduled back in the Bellotti days.
Wyoming has started this season 2-0--a 17-12 win over Montana and a 17-13 decision over Air Force. That a nice little start to the Craig Bohl era for the Cowboys. Bohl--who coached North Dakota State to three consecutive FCS titles--will get the Cowboys pointed in the right direction. But with Oregon and Michigan State coming up in two of the next three weeks, there are bound to be some bumps and bruises along the way.
Wyoming is quarterbacked by Colby Kirkegaard. Cheap existentialism jokes aside, Wyoming has shown a tendency to be a run first team over their first two games--running the ball about 60% of the time. Kirkegaard has completed 62% of his passes for 341 yards, but Wyoming only has one explosion play in the passing game this season. This is a team that has relied on short passes. Dominic Rufran and Tanner Jeffery are nice little receivers, but neither should strike fear into Oregon's secondary.
Despite being Bohl's preferred MO, the running game hasn't been great, either. Wyoming has averaged 3.6 yards per carry against Montana and Air Force. Admittedly, much of that is due to the fact that Kirkegaard has been sacked so much early in the season. They haven't yet seen anything the likes of Oregon's defensive line. I expect the Cowboys to struggle mightily offensively given their performance to date this season.
Wyoming has performed admirably on defense, giving up just the 25 points over two games. They held Montana to 2.2 yards per carry and only 253 total yards overall, and followed that up by holding Air Force's triple option to under three yards a carry and turning the Falcons into a passing team. They simply don't have the personnel to do that to Oregon.
Bohl is going to turn Wyoming around. He's a great coach. And they combine a physical stout defense with a good enough offense to win a number of Mountain West games this season. But they don't have the talent to compete with Oregon. This final non-conference test should be nothing more than a tune up for the Ducks.