Poinsettia Bowl: Wyoming vs BYU
When BYU has the ball: BYU QB Hill ended his seemingly decades long tenure at BYU with another injury, meaning QB Mangum will get the start. I think this is viewed as a positive by most bettors, as BYU's passing offense under Hill was like working from under a hill, not so good (I rank them 108th). Mangum, as you may recall, led BYU to several last second victories when he took over for the injured Hill last year. Mangum could spark the Cougar passing game; Wyoming's pass defense is pretty weak (ranked 120th). BYU will need success in the air to keep Wyoming's defense honest. BYU only had one game of pass offense this season with a positive score (my unique game scoring) in their game against Toledo. After that they averaged an awful -79 in their final 6 games. BYU's pass offense was worse over that stretch than Wyoming's pass defense was, though Wyoming faced a really weak schedule of pass offenses, with the exception of Boise. BYU had a pretty strong running game for a while until injuries limited the action of their best two backs, Williams and Canada, during the second half of the season. They're both back, so BYU's running game could be even better than projected. Wyoming actually had a really good run defense in the first half of the season before fading down the stretch. A total no show in a meaningless game against New Mexico after wrapping up a trip to the conference finals doesn't help their season numbers. If you look at the matchup grid pic, you'll see that gigantic red -466 score in that game against New Mexico, whereas Wyoming averaged a +10 in the rest of their other games. Wyoming had my 4th toughest schedule of run offenses faced this season, too, as the MWC features many teams with good run offenses. When Wyoming has the ball: BYU has a very good run defense, ranked #6. Wyoming has a pretty good run offense, ranked #49, though they ran the ball for 0.6 yards per carry more in their home games than road games. Neither unit in this matchup has shown any correlation between game score and opponent rank, so how well Wyoming will be able to run the ball is a bit of a mystery, though it rates to be below average, and well below what BYU should achieve with their running game. Wyoming's chance to hang in this game will hinge on their success passing the ball. With their 35th ranked pass offense versus BYU's 84th ranked pass defense Wyoming should be able to do some damage through the air. BYU's pass defense has shown an incredibly strong correlation (80%) between their pass defense scores and the opponent's pass offense rank, so I fully expect Wyoming to have a successful game passing. Wyoming hasn't faced any elite pass defenses this year, but the opponent's pass defense ranking has had no bearing on Wyoming's success with a -50% correlation. Wyoming (excluding the throw away game versus UNM) only passed the ball on 33% of their offensive plays in the games they won this year. In the games they lost it was much more at 49%. As they rate to be close or trailing against BYU, and hopefully realizing that their best matchup here is with the passing game, I expect Wyoming to be closer to that 50% passing mark. Wyoming's games were high scoring affairs for the most part this season, averaging a whopping 72.6 points per game, with only 3 games falling below the current total of 57. One of those 3 was in the conference championship game against San Diego State. The Aztecs have eerily similar rankings as BYU, so while I lean the Over, I'm not rushing to play it. Here's the comparison: Run offense - SDSU 25th, BYU 28th. Run defense SDSU 20th, BYU 6th. Pass offense: SDSU 107th, BYU 108th. Pass defense: SDSU 69th, BYU 84th. BYU's games only averaged 48.6 points this season, with only games going over the 57 points -- the exact opposite of Wyoming. As such, I wouldn't recommend anything other than a fun-sized action bet on the Over, as Bowl games without completely dominating defenses can be a bit more relaxed and higher scoring. I do recommend a play on Wyoming to keep it close with the passing game, though.