The western part of the United States will be well represented by BYU and Wyoming in the 2016 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
The Cougars started the season at 1-3, but finished the season 7-1 to finish 8-4. This was a successful first season for Kalani Sitake’s first year as BYU head coach. They beat two bowl eligible teams this season in Toledo and Mississippi State. Their losses were for the most part against solid teams, coming at the hands of Utah, UCLA, West Virginia and Boise State.
Taysom Hill got a sixth year of eligibility to lead the Cougars, but injured his elbow and is out for this game. Tanner Mangum is taking over the offense now. He has some experience starting for an injured Hill, as he did so last season and finished with 3,377 yards, 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Mangum had a knack for miraculous plays, including a hail mary pass for the win over Nebraska.
Mangum has four receivers with over 300 yards receiving. Nick Kurtz had the best season with 482 receiving yards, but Mitchell Jurgens has had the best career, so Hill can have a lot of trust in his receivers.
The running game is handled by Jamaal Williams, who has also had a stellar career. This season he rushed for 1,165 yards and 11 touchdowns. Williams is a play-maker who will have a chance at the NFL next season.
Pass defense is not the forte of this BYU team. They rank number 100 in the country in pass defense, allowing 255 yards per game. Fortunately for the Cougars, their rush defense is excellent, only giving up 108.4 rushing yards per contest.
Safety Kai Nacua is the player to watch on the Cougars’ defense. Last season he had six interceptions, two of them returned for touchdowns, and this season he has five. He has a knack for making plays at crucial moments and could change the momentum of the game with one of his signature interceptions.
The Cowboys started the season at 7-2, but struggled down the stretch to finish 8-5 overall. They have plenty of solid wins including, San Diego State, Colorado State, Air Force and Boise State. Unfortunately Wyoming lost in a rematch game against San Diego State in the Mountain West Championship Game, along with losses to Nebraska, Eastern Michigan, UNLV and New Mexico.
Many people don’t know it yet, but Wyoming has a future NFL player at quarterback. Josh Allen has thrown for 2,996 yards and 26 touchdowns. His 13 interceptions aren’t terrible for a first year starting quarterback.
Allen’s number one target is Tanner Gentry, who finished with 1,213 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns. At six foot two inches tall, he was a mismatch for some of the smaller corners he faced in the Mountain West.
Brian Hill was fourth in the nation in rushing yards, but most people probably have never heard of him. He finished with 1,767 rushing yards and 21 touchdowns. He is the guy who makes this offense dynamic.
Wyoming, unlike BYU, has a terrible rush defense, which allows 202.7 rushing yards per game. The pass defense is also bad, allowing 261.3 passing yards per game.
The secondary, which includes star Andrew Wingard, needs to step up to allow the Cowboys a chance to win the game.
The defense of BYU will be tested by Brian Hill, but they will be able to slow him down. Tanner Mangum will be able to score enough points to lead the Cougars to victory for one final time.
Brigham Young Cougars 29 Wyoming Cowboys 24