Wyoming vs. Northern Illinois: Game Preview, How to Watch, Livestream, Odds, Prediction
The Cowboys head on the road for the first time in 2021 to face a MAC foe.
Wyoming looks to bounce back after a shaky Week 1.
WEEK 2: Wyoming Cowboys (1-0) vs. Northern Illinois Huskies (1-0)
WHEN: Saturday, September 11 — 11:30 AM MDT/10:30 AM PDT
WHERE: Huskie Stadium; Dekalb, IL
TV/STREAMING: ESPN+ (paid subscription required)
RADIO: The Wyoming broadcast can be found throughout the state on the affiliates of the Cowboy Sports Network, including flagship 1240 AM (KFBC) in Cheyenne. The Northern Illinois broadcast can be found on the affiliates of the Huskie Sports Radio Network, including longtime flagship station (WLBK) 1360 AM and 98.9 FM in DeKalb.
SERIES RECORD: The Cowboys and Huskies have only met once previously. That meeting came in 2016 in Laramie with the Cowboys winning 40-34 in triple overtime.
LAST WEEK: Northern Illinois defeated Georgia Tech on the road, 22-21, while Wyoming won at home against Montana State, 19-16.
ODDS (as of 9/8, via Vegas Insider): Wyoming -6.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Wyoming by 9.8
FEI PROJECTION: Wyoming by 3.9
Wyoming survived a close call against former offensive coordinator Brent Vigen and his Montana State Bobcats in Week 1, and now head on the road for another test against the Northern Illinois Huskies.
Northern Illinois is coming home fresh off a road upset against Georgia Tech, which is sure to have the Huskies feeling confident. NIU pulled off the win with stellar special teams play, as well as by capitalizing on turnovers and missed opportunities by Georgia Tech. The Huskies were led by quarterback Rocky Lombardi, who went 11-17 for 136 yards and two touchdowns, as well as running back Harrison Waylee, who added 144 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries.
Here is how Wyoming can come out of DeKalb with the road victory on Saturday.
Three Keys to a Cowboy Victory
1. Establish the running game early and run the ball often.
In Craig Bohl’s time at Wyoming, the Cowboys have been known for their traditional power running offense. However, against Montana State, that power run game looked anemic and uninspired through at least the first half. Xazavian Valladay, the Pokes’ preseason all-conference running back, had only 19 carries for 77 yards and was largely held in check by the Bobcats defense. Quarterback Sean Chambers, who is known for his dynamic ability as a dual threat quarterback, looked more hesitant to run the ball himself against Montana State than he ever has in the past. This hesitancy likely stems from the injuries that he has sustained the past several years. The Cowboys offense is considerably better when both Chambers and Valladay can run the ball effectively, and I expect the Cowboys to get those two involved early and often against this Huskie defense.
That’s because the NIU defense struggled against Georgia Tech’s running game. The Yellow Jackets averaged 5.98 yards per rush (adjusted for sacks) against the Huskies and were able to run the ball pretty much at will. Georgia Tech struggled when they fell behind the chains with passing plays and by putting themselves in obvious passing situations. If the Cowboys can stick to their bread and butter, I don’t see the Huskies having any answers to Xazavian Valladay and Sean Chambers.
2. Contain Harrison Waylee
Much like Wyoming, Northern Illinois likes to establish a healthy running game and establish the passing game off the run game. Harrison Waylee is the leading rusher for the Huskies and averaged 5.3 yards per carry last week. He is most effective when he gets outside the tackles and has the speed and twitch to make a lot of defenders miss. If the Cowboys can keep Waylee in front of them and get him into matchups against the outstanding linebackers for the Cowboys, especially Chad Muma, it will be a huge blow for the Huskie offense.
If the Cowboy defense can contain Waylee and make the Northern Illinois offense one-dimensional, I like Wyoming defensive backs against the Northern Illinois receivers.
3. Capitalize in the red zone and don’t give the Huskies easy points.
Against Georgia Tech, Northern Illinois scored 14 points off missed opportunities on the part of Georgia Tech and would have had seven more if a scoring play hadn’t been called back. Wyoming, on the other hand, gave up a touchdown last week as a direct result of missed opportunities. If Wyoming is going to succeed on the road this week, the Cowboys need to take care of the football and put points on the board as often as they can. If the Cowboys can finish drives and not give away the football, this game has the potential to be very one sided.
This game looks like it will be decided by whichever team can contain the other’s running back. The Wyoming defense will be stout against the Northern Illinois Offense, and if the Cowboys can get Sean Chambers and Xazavian Valladay going, this game will be close for a half before the Cowboys pull away and seal the win with a dominant second half.
Wyoming 30, Northern Illinois 20