Date & Time: Saturday, October 11th, 2008, 12:00 MST
Radio: KALL 700
Location: War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, Wyoming
All-time series: Utah leads 48-31-1
Last meeting: 2007, Utah 50, Wyoming 0
It's been almost a year since Utah's dominant and testy win over the Wyoming Cowboys, but how much of that will play a role Saturday when the Utes travel to Laramie? Looking at what the Cowboys have done this season, I'm banking on Wyoming worrying more about their internal problems than how last year's meeting went down.
But it still won't be fully ignored and certainly will be played up when the two teams take the field this weekend. A quick recap of that game really is best summed up in a few short sentences. Joe Glenn -- Wyoming's coach -- guaranteed a Cowboy victory. Kyle Whittingham did not like this and the result was a 50-0 thrashing and an onside kick in the second half. Glenn did not like that and the result was the one-fingered salute.
Since then, the Utes finished the season strong, Wyoming stagnated, they fired their offensive coordinator, hired a new one and stagnated again. They enter this game 2-4 and 0-3 in Mountain West play, but unlike last year, factors beyond Utah's control dominate the troubles facing Wyoming this week. One of which is their coach, who appears to be under fire in his sixth season.
Glenn, who only a few years ago was a coach on the rise, has nearly bottomed out and if the Cowboys can't find four wins in their remaining six games, it's very likely he's gone after this year. That's what faces Wyoming Saturday, the prospects of almost certainly losing their head coach if they can't somehow muster a win against a ranked Utah team. Whether they can will rely on their offense, which, like last year, has underperformed.
Dax Crum started the first four games for Wyoming at quarterback, but since Karsten Sween has seen more time under center. Sween is expected to make the start against Utah and Wyoming coaches hope he can turn around an offense that ranks dead last in the nation in points per game, second to last in yards per game and have been shut out in their last two Mountain West Conference games. By all accounts, the Wyoming offense may be the most anemic Utah will see this season, which means Utah should have no trouble keeping the Cowboys out of the end zone. Their defense, though, is at least a bit better.
Under Glenn, Wyoming has traditionally had strong defenses, but this year is a bit different. While they have given up, on average, 28 yards per game, their defensive yards per game isn't terrible. Here they rank fifth in the conference, so while not great, they're out performing the offense by a mile. Against Utah's offense, though, I don't expect those numbers to hold. I would be surprised if Utah scored less than 28 points and were kept to only 329 yards of offense, since the Utes averages well over 400 yards of offense this season. But you can never take anything for granted and with the game being played in some possible adverse conditions -- it's supposed to snow -- things could get messy.
My biggest concern, however, isn't with Utah's talent, their offense or their defense, rather the emotional exhaustion they must have experienced from Thursday night's victory against Oregon State. The bad news, the Beaver win was huge and they may still be a bit hung over entering this game. The good news, they've had longer to prepare, since their game was on Thursday. Will Utah show up like they did against UNLV after another big win over a Pac Ten team last year, or will they play the consistent football that was established later in the 2007 season? That seems to be the biggest question entering Saturday's afternoon game.
Realistically, though, this is a bad Wyoming team from top to bottom. Their defense isn't nearly as good as it has been in years past and their offense might be the worst in modern Cowboy history, even eclipsing the Vic Koenning disasters. Which means Utah should have no trouble and this is the perfect game for a Brian Johnson coming out party. What I mean by that is he's got to be brimming with confidence after leading Utah to an amazing victory Thursday and he could use that as a springboard for success Saturday and I expect that. The Utes should be able to force turnovers, which plague the Cowboys, find holes in their porous run defense and dominate on the field. With the weather conditions, I expect this game to be a more cleaner version of last year's Colorado State contest, which was a pretty solid Utah victory. It might not be pretty at times, but the Utes will get the 34-10 win.