Wyoming Boise St Football

Wyoming running back Xazavian Valladay, center, breaks away from a tackle attempt by Boise State defensive tackle David Moa, right, during the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 9, 2019, in Boise, Idaho. (AP Photo/Steve Conner)

Quarterback

Utah State’s Jordan Love is a top NFL Draft prospect, and for good reason: His arm and stature (6-foot-4, 225 pounds) are the things scouts salivate over. A year ago, Love threw 32 touchdowns and six interceptions; this season, he’s at just 11 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. However, the threat Love poses is still great, and Wyoming coaches aren’t taking him lightly. Wyoming’s Tyler Vander Waal played a solid game in his first start of the season at Boise State, throwing for 160 yards without a turnover. But Love has the advantage here, in terms of experience (28 career starts) and overall production.

Advantage: Utah State

Running back

Wyoming’s Xazavian Valladay has become a workhorse in every sense: he had 37 carries against Boise State and has 96 total over his last three games. He will be called on once again this week, as UW head coach Craig Bohl said both Titus Swen and Trey Smith would be out vs. Utah State. Valladay is up to 755 rushing yards. The Aggies have a pair of running backs in Gerold Bright (614 yards) and Jaylen Warren (444 yards) who carry the load. If this was about a team’s top runner, Valladay would win the matchup. But two is greater than one, and Utah State has two very capable backs.

Advantage: Utah State

Wide receiver/tight end: Utah State’s Siaosi Mariner, Jordan Nathan, Devin Thompkins and Caleb Repp have a combined 133 catches for 1,738 yards and 12 touchdowns. The Cowboys’ top four receivers have 44 combined catches for 675 yards and six touchdowns. Much of this is due to the volume of passes being thrown, but Utah State’s receiving corps has an edge in this weekend’s matchup.

Advantage: Utah State

Offensive line

Both Wyoming’s and Utah State’s offensive lines have been solid in pass protection this season. The Cowboys have allowed just 11 sacks this year, while the Aggies have allowed 13. UW features a far more prolific rush offense, however, ranking 15th in college football, compared to 82nd for the Aggies. No matter who has played in the trenches for the Pokes, the line has continued to hum along.

Advantage: Wyoming

Defensive line

Wyoming boasts the No. 10 rush defense in college football (97.6 yards per game). Utah State gives up nearly double that amount. While run defense isn’t all about the defensive line, it certainly helps. The Cowboys also average 3.11 sacks per game; the Aggies average 1.78.

Advantage: Wyoming

Linebacker

UW’s Logan Wilson is a Butkus Award semifinalist, the only member of the club from a Group of Five school. Wilson isn’t alone, though, as Cassh Maluia and Chad Muma are excellent around him. Utah State featured a star linebacker in David Woodward. However, Woodward is out for the season due to an undisclosed injury, per the Deseret News. The Pokes easily have the edge here.

Advantage: Wyoming

Secondary

Neither team features a particularly prolific pass defense. However, Wyoming’s has played better in recent weeks. The Pokes have also allowed fewer passing touchdowns this season, clamping down when it matters most. Utah State also allows 13.44 yards per completion compared to 11.98 for UW.

Advantage: Wyoming

Special teams

Cooper Rothe’s struggles have been well-documented this season. Utah State’s Dominik Eberle has not missed an extra point this season, and is 14 of 16 in field goal attempts. Utah State also has Savon Scarver, arguably the best kick returner in college football. Scarver averages 31.6 yards per return and has scored two touchdowns; he can flip the complexion of a game in an instant. Wyoming’s special teams are solid all around; Scarver makes the Aggies’ special.

Advantage: Utah State

Score prediction: Wyoming 27, Utah State 20

Michael Katz is a writer for WyoSports. He can be reached by email at mkatz@wyosports.net. Follow him on Twitter at @MichaelLKatz.

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