Flying under the radar compared to some larger MAC matchups and potential top 25 upsets is this wee little reunion down in Bowling Green as they host Wyoming.
The game itself promises points, but the local backstory will be the return of Gregg Brandon, who went 33-20 in six seasons with BGSU. Despite three bowl games, "two" division titles (one was a three-way share) and numerous passing records broken with the likes of Omar Jacobs and Tyler Sheehan, Brandon was shown the door after 2008, the year he beat ranked Pittsburgh as well as Toledo. Go figure. He did have a pitiful 2006 where they lost to Temple, then on a historic losing streak, and by the end of the season he had scarred his entire set of placekickers for life. And he did coach a team that lost a bowl game by an NCAA-record 56 points.
So now it's three years later and Brandon is the offensive coordinator of Wyoming, coming to BG to try and continue their weird success on Eastern time. Both teams are 2-0, but UW, much like EMU, got the wins over a pair of Championship Subdivision opponents.
You're not going to believe this, but I think BG will win this game. When I chatted with Matt Hargleroad of SBN's Wyoming blog Cowboy Altitude, I mentioned this. Returning the favor, he has a different outlook.
1. Wins over Weber State and Texas State put the team at 2-0, which is a good record no matter the opponents, but in another way opponents matter. Were these empty-calorie games or can Wyoming continue to play like that?
So both teams were FCS schools that Wyoming beat but they were forced to schedule it this way and it has worked out well. Wyoming was originally scheduled to play at Boise State for an OOC game but that changed when they joined the Mountain West. That left an open spot on the schedule and little time to fill it so we ended up with Texas State. With our two year starting QB leaving in January it opened a void at QB that was won by true freshmen Brett Smith. Over the first two games Smith has looked very comfortable and these two FCS opponents have been a great way to break in a new offense and new OC. The victory over Weber State required a two minute drive to win but it really helped the offense come together. That offensive line for Weber State was no joke and is certainly one of the best in the FCS. The defense struggled in week one but rebounded strongly against Texas State who was not as strong as Weber State.
The offense has impressed big time and is currently averaging 40 points a game which is more then double 2010. That number may be hard to keep up over the year but it certainly appears they would obtain their strongest offensive output since Christensen came to town in 2009.
2. Ghaali Muhammad, Brandon Miller and Alvester Alexander. All three have had many touches in the backfield. Is this a three-headed monster or will one of these fellow emerge?
This is entirely a three headed monster by a design. The depth chart lists each running back with OR between each name. They are all considered the starting running back and get equal reps each game. Alvester Alexander has been the starter the last two years and had 676 yards and fourteen touchdowns last year. While he only has 95 yards on the ground this year he has been utilized heavily in the passing game and is second on the team with seven receptions for 110 yards. Last year he only had 134 yards receiving so he is on pace to shatter that mark. Alexander is a true all around back, Brandon Miller is smaller and can shoot through any seam very quickly and Ghaali Muhammad is the biggest back of the bunch. Muhammad actually moved to running back during the winter after starting at outside linebacker as a sophomore. He is certainly not afraid to take a hit from a defender when he is carrying the ball.
You can also need to watch out for Brett Smith who is a very adept runner himself. The dual threat QB already has 95 yards already himself and has ran for three touchdowns. He is very dangerous in the redzone and can make you pay if you give him a running lane.
3. I remember making a note of this in last year's Wyoming-Toledo game*: at the time the Cowboys had won three straight games on Eastern time, and with the win at the Glass Bowl, that makes four. I would imagine the jet lag might have an adverse effect on the athletic human body, especially going east rather than west. What in the world?
Wyoming does a great job preparing for long road trips and the players take it very seriously. Since this game is on the East Coast and such a early start Wyoming is preparing accordingly. They are actually practicing at 6a.m. on Thursday and Friday to make their bodies ready for the time difference. Then on Saturday it will feel like they got to sleep in when they are getting ready so early for the game. The wins you mentioned include: Toledo, Florida Atlantic, Tennessee and Ohio and have all been close victories.
* - Just noticed this. So how poorly did Toledo botch this schedule last year? At least BG scheduled the game for noon, which is 10 a.m. Wyoming time. The 2010 game in the Glass Bowl was at 7 p.m. local time. Likewise the FAU, Tennessee and OHIO games all began at 2 .m. or later. At least UW is preparing for the start time adequately.
4. This team gave up 30 points a game last year. They had some breakdowns against Weber State but worked it out against Texas State. Who on the defense is going to keep this team in ball games?
The offense for Weber State definitely gave the Cowboys fits due to their offensive line. The secondary had a number of lapses and that is the unit that will need to step because Matt Schilz will certainly test them. Texas State ran the option and that was much easier to defend for Wyoming. CB Tashaun Gipson is the lone returning starter for the secondary and he had three interceptions last year to lead the team. DE/LB Korey Jones had three consecutive sacks in week two against Texas State. Jones and the rest of the defensive line will need to put plenty of pressure on Schilz to stop him from having too much time in the pocket.
5. Finally, and I know you don't have much of a sample size to work with, so you may have no opinion at all, but I have to ask you about Gregg Brandon. It's probably a bigger deal to us but what are Wyoming folks saying about their new offensive coordinator?
We've been ecstatic about Brandon ever since he was hired and he certainly has given the offense a boost. They've looked better during spring practice, fall scrimmages and these first two games. When Christensen started at Wyoming he hired a rookie OC named Marcus Arroyo who never did much to make us think he was a spread guru. The players and formations are looking much better with Brandon and he has done all of this while breaking in a true freshmen QB. If Coach Christensen were ever to leave Wyoming for any reason it seems like Brandon is the logical coach in waiting who could take over for him easily. He has roots on the Front Range and previous experience at Wyoming plus the offense wouldn't miss a beat during the transition.
6. Your prediction?
Wyoming is always good for two things: beating FCS teams (9-0) and conquering eastern teams (4 straight) Cowboys 42 Falcons 38.
Thanks to Other Matt and his Cowboy Altitude attitude.