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LARAMIE, WYO. -- The 25th ranked BYU Cougars (6-2, 3-1) are itching to get back on the field after a humbling loss to TCU followed by a bye week.
The Wyoming Cowboys (4-4, 2-2) are coming off a frustrating loss to the University of Utah, but have shown enough progress under first year Head Coach Dave Christensen and with freshman quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels to be considered a threat.
Christensen knows his team still has a long way to go, but is pleased with the direction his team is taking. BYU Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall has noticed the Cowboys are playing with "renewed toughness" and "more discipline."
Some wonder if the Cougars will be focused and anxious to get back on the field against the Cowboys now that the BCS is a distant memory and a chance at the conference championship looks slim (but not impossible if TCU and Utah both lose).
In 2008, BYU looked lifeless and disinterested against Arizona in the Las Vegas Bowl after the Cougars' season goals were dashed in a 48-24 thrashing by the Utes.
What Cougars we see on Saturday will likely reveal what team we get for the rest of 2009.
KSL takes a look back and a look ahead as we prep for game day.
What did we learn about BYU versus TCU?
- This BYU team is not at the level Bronco Mendenhall expects or anticipated
- The Cougars' often struggle with mobile quarterbacks
- Harvey Unga can run successfully against the best defenses in college football (21 rushes, 123 yards against TCU)
- BYU's offensive line struggled to contain a fast physical defensive front
What questions do we still have about BYU?
- Can the Cougars stay motivated or will they let the TCU loss carry over?
- Can the Cougars progress between now and the Utah game?
- Can BYU's defense get a bead on Wyoming's Austyn Carta-Samuels, another mobile quarterback?
- Will the Cougars be able to match Wyoming's homefield intensity?
What can BYU expect from Wyoming?
- A young and inexperienced offense struggling to make plays (10 points or fewer in four of eight ganmes)
- A capable freshman quarterback (Carta-Samuels) who is not afraid to use his feet
- A defense good enough to keep its team in games
- A disciplined team taking much better care of the football (36 giveaways last season; only seven so far this season)
What can Wyoming expect from BYU?
- The return of WR McKay Jacobson (has missed four games with a hamstring injury)
- A BYU coaching staff intent on rebuilding its team's confidence
- A team playing "pressure-free" after the loss to TCU
- More pressure than usual from the defense; the Pokes have allowed 55 tackles for loss and 26 sacks
- Bronco Mendenhall has never lost to Wyoming as head coach of BYU (one of five such teams)
- Since Bronco took over, BYU has never turned the ball over against the Cowboys. Wyoming, meantime, has 14 giveaways against the Cougars.
- Last season, the Cowboys were ranked 118th of 119 teams in turnover margin (-22). This year, the Pokes are 17th in turnover margin (+7).
- BYU is -4 in turnover margin (17 giveaways, 13 takeaways)
- In eight possessions to open the second half, BYU has four punts, three interceptions and a turnover on downs.
- BYU has won its last four games following a bye week.
- Bronco Mendenhall's November record is 13-2 (both losses to Utah, in 2005 and 2008).
- BYU averages 34.6 points a game (2nd in MWC); Wyoming averages 18.2 (8th)
- Wyoming's offense is not ranked higher than 5th in any offensive category in MWC. On the flip side, BYU isn't ranked lower than fourth in any offensive category(rushing offense).
Having been blown out by TCU and bounced from the BCS discussion, BYU has a chance to bounce back by winning out and recording a 10-win season for a fourth straight year. Wyoming and New Mexico provide manageable challenges as the Cougars seek to finish strong, with the Pokes and Lobos both unlikely to keep pace with BYU offensively. BYU has won its last four meetings with the Cowboys by an average score of 42-10; a similar outcome on Saturday would not be a surprise.