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Wyoming Cowboys vs. Colorado State Rams Game Preview

Wyoming Cowboys (7-4, 4-2 MWC) vs Colorado State Rams (3-8, 1-5 MWC)

The Wyoming Cowboys look to close the 2011 regular season out strong on the road in Colorado.

Hughes Stadium, Fort Collins CO
Saturday, Dec. 3, 2 pm EST
NCAA Odds from Sportsbook.com:
MoneyLine: Wyoming -220, Colorado St. +180
Spread: Wyoming -5.5, Colorado St. +5.5
Over/Under: 50.5

The Cowboys take their respectable 7-4 record into Fort Collins to lock horns with the Rams of Colorado State. Wyoming’s solid offense has been funneled this season through freshman pivot Brett Smith; it plans to use Smith to snag a road victory, even with a major absence on offense.

Junior Chris McNeill, Wyoming’s leading receiver, is out indefinitely with an arm injury suffered a few weeks ago. Senior Mazi Ogbonna and first-year Josh Doctson have attempted to pick up the slack in McNeill’s absence, but Smith and the Cowboys’ attack still loses a major element of the game-plan.

It is a good thing, then, that Wyoming has a strong running game. The Cowboys are averaging 182 yards per game on the ground, behind the totes of Smith (555 yards, 10 TDs) and RB Alvester Alexander. Last year’s starting QB, Austyn Carta-Samuels, left the team in the offseason, but Smith has come in as a first-year starter and the offense has actually improved. The Oregon native definitely has the Cowboys’ coaching staff excited about having the most important position on the field locked down for at least the next couple seasons.

Wyoming’s defense is only average, but it is led by senior defensive ends Gabe Knapton and pass-rusher Josh Biezuns. Senior “Will” LB Brian Hendricks is also a cog in the front seven. Veteran CB Tashaun Gipson has nice size (6”0, 208 lbs) and can create match-up trouble, especially in a conference that drops off sharply after Boise State and TCU. While Wyoming’s “D” isn’t outstanding statistically (ranked 68th in the nation in points against) they have avoided getting embarrassed in every match-up this year save the Utah State game, where the Aggies dropped 63 points on them. Regardless, the visitors should have enough horses on this side of the ball to handle the likes of a Colorado State. [soliloquy id=”82219″]

The home team Rams have yielded a good season out of RB Chris Nwoke – 195 carries for 1,115 yards and nine scores – but there isn’t much else to get excited about. Highly-touted UCLA transfer Raymond Carter has been a disappointment at RB and sophomore pivot Pete Thomas has been pedestrian in his second year as a starter. To be fair, Thomas has been injured for the past couple games. Rams head coach Steve Fairchild had to burn the redshirt on freshman QB Garrett Grayson, but Thomas is listed as “Questionable” for this week’s tilt.

Other than Nwoke, it’s been pretty disappointing in Fort Collins. The Rams are setting up to finish the season with same record as 2010 (3-9) even though several experts pegged Colorado State to take a leap in the MWC this year. To avoid that fate, the Rams must upset Wyoming this week. CSU had a decent start, but have lost seven straight ballgames and must turn that around at home in order to eclipse last year’s three-win product.

It looks like Smith is too resourceful to let that happen, even without his top WR. Biezuns and Knapton will probably get after whoever is under center for the home side and Wyoming can use a balanced offense to hurt the Rams aerially or chewing up the turf.

After a glut of poor seasons and a 17-32 overall record, Fairchild likely hasn’t instilled much confidence in CSU brass, and without a good note to end 2011 on, his job security cannot be looking very promising. Expect the visiting team to earn their eighth win in the last week of a crazy season for college football.

Score Prediction: Wyoming 33, Colorado St. 19
Over/Under Prediction: 52

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