Nevada Wolfpack (-7, 51.5 o/u) at Wyoming Cowboys
The Nevada Wolfpack (3-3, 1-1 MW) will look for their first two-game win streak of the season this weekend when they visit the winless Wyoming Cowboys (0-6, 0-2 MW) at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie (Saturday, Oct. 17, at 4:00 PM Eastern).
Nevada is coming off a 35-17 win over the New Mexico Lobos, where they covered the spread as four-point favorites. The Wolfpack dominated on both sides of the ball, outgaining New Mexico 517 yards to 273. Quarterback Tyler Stewart threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more.
Nevada coach Brian Polian was happy with the way his team responded after a tough home loss to UNLV (23-17) the week prior.
“The biggest takeaway is how proud I am of our team and the resiliency they showed,” said Polian to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “This time last week it was like the sky was falling and the season was over. They showed a lot of character, a lot of fight. I understand it’s only one win, but I’m proud of the way they answered and hung together and stuck together like a family does through a difficult week.”
While Stewart played well last weekend, the Nevada offense lives and dies with the run. Their ground game averages 222.3 yards per game (20th in the nation), while the aerial attack is putting up just 164.5 (111th). The two-headed monster of RBs Don Jackson and James Butler were as good as advertised against the Lobos; Jackson had two runs of 40-plus yards and totaled 152 yards on 22 carries, while Butler added 145 yards and a touchdown on 21 attempts.
The backfield tandem should be poised for another big day next weekend. Still without a win on the season, Wyoming has been unable to stop the run all season, giving up 229 yards per game (and 5.5 yards per attempt). Last weekend, the dropped a 31-17 game to Air Force, surrendering nearly 300 yards on the ground. The porous front seven has contributed to a terrible scoring defense, in general, this year. Wyoming has only held one opponent under 30 points, and that was back in Week 1 when they fell 24-13 to North Dakota.
Turnovers were arguably the bigger story for the team last week, though. The Cowboys were minus-two in turnover differential, giving the ball up four times. The loss to Air Force dropped Wyoming to 0-6 on the year. After going 4-8 last season, frustration is starting to boil over for many of the upper classmen.
“I just hate losing in general,” Wyoming senior Eddie Yarbrough told the Associated Press. “It’s always a tough pill for me to swallow.”
Wyoming QB Cameron Coffman has been something of a bright spot for the team. He entered last week averaging 274.8 yards, best in the Mountain West. But he had an off day against Air Force, completing just 15 of 29 passes for 192 yards, two TDs, and two picks.
“We had a hard time,” Wyoming head coach Craig Bohl said to the Associated Press. “We really had a difficult time in the running game. We had a hard time protecting the passer.”
These two programs have met three times since 1997, with Nevada winning two, including a 35-28 victory the last time they clashed in 2012. Looking at the trends, while the Cowboys are 0-6 straight up this season, they are 3-3 against the spread. That said, they’re also a woeful 6-18 ATS in their last 24 games as a home underdog, while the Wolfpack are 7-2 ATS in their last nine road games.
With Nevada laying just seven points, they look like better value.
Pick: Nevada -7.
(Photo credit: John Van Winkle [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.)