#103 Wyoming Football 2012 Preview

Wyoming Cowboys

2012 Overall Rank: #103
#3 Mountain West
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Wyoming had a heck of a year in 2011.  They finished third in the Mountain West Conference behind perennial contenders TCU and Boise State.  In fact, those were the only two conference foes that the Cowboys lost to.  Led by head coach Dave Christiansen, Wyoming will look for even greater improvement on that record.  Boise State and TCU are fleeing for bigger conferences, leaving the door wide open in the Mountain West.  Sophomore quarterback Brett Smith returns to lead a dynamic offense and his improvement in his second year starting will be the key for the Cowboys.

2011 Record: (8-5, 5-2)
2011 Bowl: New Mexico Bowl vs Temple (L 37-15)
Coach: Dave Christiansen (10-15 at Wyoming, 10-15 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Gregg Brandon
Defensive Coordinator:  Chris Torney

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Brett Smith, QB, 850 yards
Passing: Brett Smith, QB, 2,622 yards
Receiving: Chris McNeill, WR, 504 yards
Tackles: Luke Ruff, 102
Sacks: Korey Jones, 4
Interceptions: Blair Burns, 4

Other Key Returnees: FS Luke Anderson, RB Brandon Miller, WR Dominic Rufran, CB Marqueston Huff

Key Losses: DE Gabe Knapton, DE Josh Biezens, WR Mazi Ogbonna, LB Brian Hendricks, CB Tashaun Gipson, RB Alvester Alexander

The Cowboy’s strength lies in their offensive versatility.  Quarterback Brett Smith is a mobile guy who led the team in passing and rushing in 2011.  The dual-threat style benefits the Cowboys as they can mask weaknesses when your quarterback is so athletic.  They did have a decent running attack to complement Smith’s skills.  Including Smith, it was generally a three-pronged rushing attack with Alvester Alexander and Brandon Miller.  With Alexander gone, Miller will likely step in as the number one running back.  Coach Christiansen might be looking for a new body to step in and split carries in the backfield.  A lot of their success had to do with their stout offensive line which allowed less than a sack per game.  They don’t lose too many guys off of that line, so that could be a valuable unit going into 2012.  Their secondary was also a strong unit and gave up less than 200 yards per game through the air in 2011.  Led by sophomore Blair Burns, they will be looking to shut teams down in 2012.

Overall, the defense is going to be the weakest part of this football team.  They will certainly be hoping for an improvement over 2011 when they were dreadful at stopping the run (5th worst in FBS) and gave up nearly 440 yards per game.  The middle of that defensive line and line backing corps will have to step up and stop the bleeding.  The Cowboys also need Smith’s passing numbers to improve.  While he is an athletic player, he doesn’t get the ball down field as much as they would like.  He threw for over 2,600 yards, but the team averaged a little over 200 yards per game.  It will be easy for defenses to key on stopping the run when the passing game does not appear to be a threat.  

The Bottom Line:
Wyoming has a real opportunity in 2012 to make something of themselves.  Like every other squad in the country, they lost some quality contributors after 2011.  It looks like the stable is full at some key positions.  The ever-growing maturity of a young quarterback will be vital and the young secondary has a chance to do some great things in the Mountain West.  If they can establish their top rushers early, then the ground game can lead this team to multiple victories.  The conference race will be wide open.  With TCU no longer on the schedule, the Cowboy’s toughest tests remain Texas and Boise State in non-conference games.  Those will not be easy outs, but if this team can find a way to win one of those two games then they set themselves up nicely for a run at a conference championship.  At the very least, they look primed for another solid bowl bid in 2012.

Projected Bowl: None

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 181.62 (33rd in nation, 4th in conference)
Passing Offense: 206.85 (79, 4)
Total Offense: 388.46 (59, 5)
Scoring Offense: 26.08 (67, 5)
Rushing Defense: 232.0 (115, 6)
Pass Defense: 199.62 (30, 3)
Total Defense: 431.62 (98, 6)
Scoring Defense: 27.77 (67, 4)
Turnover Margin: .92 (9, 1)
Sacks: 1.69 (77, 5)
Sacks Allowed: .92 (11, 4)