Fresno State vs. Wyoming: Keys to a Bulldogs Win, How to Watch, Odds, Prediction
The Bulldogs look to get back on track in a tough road game at Wyoming. Here’s how to watch and what to keep an eye on against the Cowboys.
A must-win game for the ‘Dogs.
WEEK 7: Fresno State Bulldogs (4-2, 1-1 Mountain West) vs. Wyoming Cowboys (4-1, 0-1 Mountain West)
WHEN: Saturday, October 16 — 12:30 PM PT/1:30 PM MT
WHERE: War Memorial Stadium; Laramie, WY
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes FS2, by following this link.
You can also stream the Fresno State radio broadcast on Fresno State All-Access.
RADIO: The Fresno State broadcast can be found on in and around Fresno on Fox Sports 1340 AM, as well as on the affiliates of the Bulldog Radio Network around the San Joaquin Valley. The Wyoming broadcast can be found throughout the state on the affiliates of the Cowboy Sports Network, including flagship 1240 AM (KFBC) in Cheyenne.
SERIES RECORD: Fresno State leads the all-time series, 7-5. In the last meeting on October 13, 2018, the Bulldogs defeated the Cowboys, 27-3, in Fresno.
LAST WEEK: Fresno State was on a bye, while Wyoming lost on the road to Air Force, 24-14.
ODDS (as of 10/12, via Vegas Insider): Fresno State -3.5
SP+ PROJECTION: Fresno State by 5.3
FEI PROJECTION: Wyoming by 3.5
After absorbing a tough loss on the Hawaiian islands two weeks ago, things won’t get easier for the Fresno State Bulldogs on the back end of a critical two-game road swing that takes them to the Equality State for a date with the Wyoming Cowboys.
As both teams have already been saddled with a loss in conference play, this game could well act as a de facto elimination game in the hunt for a spot in the conference championship. While the Cowboys haven’t yet fired on all cylinders for a full sixty minutes, they are still one of the most experienced teams anywhere in the country and won’t roll over for the Bulldogs, who hope that the bye week provided enough respite to heal up and fix the lingering problems on both sides of the ball.
Here’s how the ‘Dogs can get back in the win column against Wyoming.
Three Keys to a Fresno State Victory
1. Find some efficiency in the running game to take pressure off of Jake Haener.
On its face, the fact that Ronnie Rivers is averaging 4.62 yards per carry doesn’t seem too bad. However, 31 of his 74 rushing yards against Hawaii two weeks ago came on two carries, meaning that he managed 43 yards on his other 13 rushing attempts, a 3.31 YPC average that, frankly, won’t cut it against a tough Wyoming front.
It’s not an isolated example, either. 200 of Rivers’s 420 rushing yards have come on 11 carries, meaning that he’s otherwise managed 2.71 YPC on his other 81 attempts. That goes a long way toward explaining why, by some advanced metrics, the Bulldogs are 125th nationally in Line Yards Per Carry, 108th in Opportunity Rate, and 81st in Stuff Rate. He and the offensive line need to contribute more to keep the Cowboys from keying on Haener.
2. Keep Wyoming in check on third downs.
A huge part of the Cowboys’ loss last week to Air Force is that the Falcons found way to put them at a disadvantage on third downs, forcing them into 3rd-and-11 on average and holding Wyoming to 3-of-12 conversions. Despite that, Craig Bohl’s offense still owns the best third-down conversion rate in the Mountain West, 45.59%.
A closer look past the aggregate, however, reveals that the Pokes have been pretty volatile in that regard, converting 60% of the time or more in two games and under 40% in the other three. You have to imagine, then, that Fresno State has to feel good about their chances to finish the day as part of that latter group, especially if they can keep Wyoming out of power running situations. The Cowboys will likely lean on Xazavian Valladay, who’s earned six first downs on eight third-down carries with three or fewer yards to go, if they get there.
3. Stay disciplined when Wyoming takes shots down the field.
Cowboys offensive coordinator Jay Polasek doesn’t lean on Sean Chambers’s arm nearly as often as Ryan Grubb does with Haener, but don’t mistake that with an inability to create chunk plays through the air. Chambers has 15 plays of 20 or more yards on 126 pass attempts, an 11.9% rate that doesn’t trail Haener by much (30 of 236, 12.7%) and is actually better than Nevada’s Carson Strong (10.4%) and comparable to Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier (11.8%).
Because Wyoming relies on a fair amount of play action, the Bulldogs will need to avoid biting too hard on fakes to stay with Isaiah Neyor and Ayden Eberhardt down the field.
If it wasn’t apparent before the loss to Hawaii, a lot will ride on Jake Haener’s health going forward. The Cowboys still possess one of the conference’s best linebackers, a secondary that can punish big mistakes, and a pass rush that, one could argue, still hasn’t hit its full stride, so things could go wrong quickly if the ‘Dogs aren’t careful.
The problem for Wyoming is that, while the talent is evident, that they haven’t put it all together halfway through the season suggests the Bulldogs might be able to take advantage of their inconsistencies just as Air Force did last Saturday. Turning the ball over another six times also seems extremely unlikely, so Fresno State shouldn’t have much trouble asserting their offensive advantage over the course of sixty minutes, daring the Cowboys to keep up.
Fresno State 34, Wyoming 24