BYU Cougars (8-4 SU, 9-3 ATS) vs. Wyoming Cowboys (8-5 SU, 8-5 ATS)
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Date/Time: Wednesday, December 21, 2016 at 9PM EST
Where: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California
By Loot, NCAA Football Handicapper, Lootmeister.com
Betting Odds: BYU -8.5/WYO +8.5
Over/Under Total: 56
On December 21, the BYU Cougars face the Wyoming Cowboys at Qualcomm Stadium in the Poinsettia Bowl. Each team delivered 8 wins on the season. Wyoming was able to seriously elevate their program this season, making it to the Mountain West Conference title game, where they lost to a San Diego State team on December 3 by three points that they had beaten a few weeks previously. Brigham Young is coming off a season where they had a handful of close games early, before finishing with four straight wins to get to this spot. Who can end the season on a positive note?
BYU had a pretty good season under first-year head coach Kalani Sitake. They entered this season after a few years that were characterized by a lot of close games decided by dramatic finishes. This year began the same way. In their 4 defeats, they lost by a combined 8 points. No team was really able to defeat the Cougars by any kind of definitive margin. But they enter this game without their quarterback Taysom Hill, who was lost in the last game of the season.
Hill was pretty good this season, though he didn't make the most of a dynamic aerial package led by guys like Nick Kurtz, Colby Pearson, Mitchell Juergens, and other talent. In comes Tanner Mangum, who led this Cougars team last season with Hill injured. Mangum lacks Hill's ability to run, but was adept in getting more out of the receivers. For back-ups, you can do a lot worse than Mangum. And it helps to have some beef on the line, along with hard-running back Jamaal Williams, who ran for 1165 yards this season. This wasn't a team that really relied on offense this season and they shouldn't suffer that much depreciation with the change at QB.
Opponents have scored just a combined 29 points against the Cougars in their last 4 games. On average, they allowed less than 20 points per game and appear to be peaking on this side of the ball late in the season. They can make plays, as demonstrated by their ability to score touchdowns, in addition to the 29 turnovers they secured on the season. Despite injuries, they maintained their edge. Sae Tautu, Francis Bernard, and Fred Warner were big in the front-seven, with Kai Nacua making five interceptions.
Hats off to Craig Bohl for getting this Wyoming program back on-point with a big season. They finished the campaign in ragged fashion, though they were competitive with conference kingpin San Diego State, beating them and losing by three in their two matchups. But sandwiching those games was a 69-66 OT loss to a pretty bad UNLV team, in addition to a 56-35 beating at the hands of New Mexico. You don't want to get too picky with a team that did so much to turn their program around, but they didn't look that strong to finish the season.
Wyoming was finally able to create some offensive difference-makers, led by the standout play of QB Josh Allen, along with one of the best running backs in the conference in Brian Hill. Allen threw 27 touchdowns, while running in 7 more. Hill had 1767 yards with 21 touchdowns. Wide receiver Tanner Gentry has a big season with 1213 yards, aided by Jake Mualhardt and Jacob Hollister. And while the Las Vegas Bowl might not pump up BYU, Wyoming has to be thrilled to be in a bowl game and should be expected to rise to the occasion.
The Wyoming defense had its issues all season. They were ranked 112th in total defense and it says a lot that they were able to make it as far as they did with such an exploitable defense. And while they were dicey all season, they got increasingly ragged late in the season. They gave up 35 points a game this season. But it's worth noting that they can do some things to turn games in their favor—securing turnovers, while also rushing the passer. They scored several touchdowns this season, with Marcus Epps, Antonio Hull, and Logan Wilson making plays in the secondary, while Kevin Prosser was adept in getting after opposing quarterbacks this season.
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Looking at Wyoming on paper could cause us to miss the boat. They're a team long mired in a string of losing seasons. Coach Bohl masterminded a drastic turnaround, doing things the right way as he rebuilt the team from the ground up. They ended the season on a sour note, but still showed some moxie in giving SDSU such a hard time to end the season. BYU is a good team, but not one that depends on a high-flying offense. Maybe Wyoming can thrive in this matchup, with some things in their favor.
BYU quietly ended the season strong. No team ever really dominated them and they hit this bowl spot with some nice momentum. Their season low-points were nowhere as low as Wyoming's, whose range was much wider this season. I think a strong Wyoming effort, combined with the fact that BYU doesn't really dominate the better teams they play, will lead to a Cowboys cover. I'm taking the points and Wyoming.
Loot's Prediction to Cover the Point Spread: I'm betting on the Wyoming Cowboys plus 8.5 points. Tired of your credit card not working for sportsbook deposit? End that problem today by signing up at Bovada Sportsbook where your credit card WILL work and where you'll receive a generous 100% sign-up bonus!