Opening their season with a loss for the twelfth time in 14 seasons, Idaho heads out on the road again this week looking for crisper play from its offense and an answer to its woes on defense with a game against Wyoming. Since their first match-up in 1921, the Vandals and Cowboys have played each only six times, with the Cowboys coming out on top in the last five. With this trip out to Laramie, Idaho will be looking to get their first win in nine road games.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT WYOMING:
After one game, Wyoming currently ranks 11th in the nation in passing yards per game at 383 after a stellar game against Nebraska. Junior QB Brett Smith is clearly the heart and soul of the Cowboys again this season after finishing 2012 with 2,832 yards and 27 touchdowns. His numbers are continuously improving with every season even when his offense line is allowing him to get sacked 26 times in a season. Watch for Smith to throw the ball roughly 30-40 times in this game (averages 33 pass attempts through his last 11 games) against Idaho’s questionable secondary.
In the run department, Wyoming is led by RBs Shaun Wick and Brandon Miller. The two, who combined for 702 yards and five touchdowns in 2012, will be taking over a majority of the running duties with last year’s leading rusher D.J. May out with an injury. Wick seems to be the more effective of the two, rushing for 110 yards last week against Nebraska on 12 carries. Along with Wick and Miller, Smith will pose a threat in the running attack as he is very mobile, rushing for 92 yards so far in 2013.
Defensively wise, Wyoming has struggled to keep their opponents from gaining ground. The Cowboys have allowed their opponents to gain an average of 473 yards a game in their last 13 games, seven of which totaled over 500. Wyoming will be without corner Tyran Finley, which might make their pass defense a little more suspect. During last year’s game, Idaho gained 509 yards of total offense against Wyoming’s defense.
KEYS TO THE GAME FOR IDAHO:
QB Chad Chalich was impressive in his first start as a collegiate quarterback as he managed to throw for over 230 yards and complete 70% of his passes. While he did fumble twice on option run plays that really shouldn’t have been called in the first place, he also proved to be a very mobile player, making him a difficult match-up.
For his performance to shine though, the offensive line needs to step-up. Now to be fair, most of them were dropping like flies last week due to the heat in Denton, but this has been a constant issue for the Vandals for awhile now and Chalich got hit one too many times to like against North Texas. If the line can’t protect their QB, he won’t be able to move this Idaho offense.
While RB Richard Montgomery may be the future of the Idaho run game, it might be a good idea to give Jerrel Brown more carries and the starting position for this game. Since Wyoming gave up 375 yards rushing last week, it may prove beneficial to start running the ball more with the backs as opposed to having Chalich take on a majority of the carries. Brown proved to be the more effective back on the same amount of carries than Montgomery last week and could have another big game if given the ball. It will also take a lot of pressure off of Chalich and help give the Vandals some offensive options.
Stopping the pass should be the top priority for Idaho in this game. Showing a lot of improvements in their rush defense last week, Idaho continued to show painful weakness with their pass defense. The Vandals have given up 300+ yards passing in six of their last 13 games. If the secondary doesn’t prevent Wyoming receivers from getting open, Smith could drop a lot of yards on them.
After their near miss loss to Nebraska last week, Wyoming looks like a much stronger team overall than they did during last year’s 40-37 overtime win in Moscow. With all the problems that Idaho last week had guarding the pass, this one will probably get ugly quickly. Smith torched Idaho last year for five touchdowns and 365 yards when the Vandals had a “better” secondary. If Smith could put up nearly identical numbers against the Huskers, he might end up with a career day.
Even though Wyoming has an equally suspect defense, it’s hard to see Idaho being able to compete if they don’t jump out to a strong start offensively and stop Smith on defense. Chalich showed potential, but the team doesn’t look to be together chemistry-wise enough to win a shoot-out. Look for Idaho to show a lot of flair like they did against North Texas, but for the game to end in a similar fashion.
NCAA 14 Prediction: Wyoming 45 Idaho 28
My Prediction: Wyoming 56 Idaho 17