There will be a new quarterback under center when BYU meets old Mountain West Conference rival Wyoming on Dec. 21 at the Poinsettia Bowl in San Diego after Taysom Hill when down in the last game with a season-ending injury for the fourth time in five years. The Cougars fortunately have an experienced backup as sophomore Tanner Mangum completed 59.9 percent of his passes for 3,377 yards with 23 touchdowns and 10 interceptions as a freshman while replacing Hill, who missed all but the first half of last season’s opener with a fractured foot. BYU, which leads the series 44-30-3 and won the last seven meetings before leaving the MWC in 2010, appears in its 12th straight bowl but hasn’t won one since a 23-6 victory over San Diego State in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl.
The game could come down to who better stops the run as Cowboys junior Brian Hill rushed for 1,767 yards and 21 touchdowns – good for third and second, respectively, in the MWC, but faces a stiff challenge in a Cougars’ rushing defense that is eighth in the country at 108.4 yards allowed per game. BYU senior Jamaal Williams rushed for 1,165 and 11 TDs despite missing three of the last five games with an ankle injury and faces a Wyoming defense that allows 34.8 points per game – 24th-most among the 128 FBS teams in the nation – and an average of 464 total yards (17th-most). Williams rushed for 618 yards and nine scores in a three-game stretch versus West Virginia, Toledo and Michigan State this season, including a school-record five TDs and a career-high 286 yards against Toledo, and seems healthy again after rushing for 131 and a score on 18 carries in a 28-10 victory over Utah State on Nov. 26 in the Cougars’ last contest.
Craig Bohl made a name for himself by coaching North Dakota State to three consecutive FCS titles from 2011-13 before taking on the challenge of bringing the Cowboys back to respectability. Bohl was 6-18 in his first two seasons before nearly leading Wyoming to an MWC championship, losing to San Diego State 27-24 in the conference title game Dec. 3. Bohl was named MWC Coach of the Year on Nov. 30 and the Cowboys didn’t waste much time extending his contract through 2023 on Dec. 2, with athletic director Tom Burman explaining in a release: “When I hired Craig three years ago, I believed he was the best coach to turn around our football program. He has certainly delivered and the turnaround is evident in the performance of our team this season.”
TV: 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
LINE HISTORY: BYU opened as 8.5-point favorites and over the past week that number has risen steadily and currently sits as BYU -10. The total hit the board at 56.5 and currently sits at 57. Check out the complete history here.
WEATHER REPORT: Believe it or not, the normally perfect weather conditions in San Diego (the host city for the 2016 Poinsettia Bowl) are expected to be unsettled, at best, on Wednesday night. Coudly, 60 percent chance of rain showers, temperatures in the mid-60’s, and wind gusts of 12-15 mph.
Brigham Young – LB S. Takitaki (Questionable, undisclosed), OL B. Wilcox (Questionable, undisclosed), K J. Oldroyd (Questionable, back), RB A. Brown (Questionable, undisclosed), QB T. Hill (Out For Season, elbow), DL M. Taliauli (Out For Season, knee), DL T. Tuiloma (Out For Season, knee), OL U. Lapuaho (Out Indefinitely, knee).
Wyoming – OL G. Rush (Probable, back), LB C. Irving (Questionable, undisclosed), LB J. Moore (Questionable, undisclosed), LB D. May (Out For Season, pectoral), NT C. Appleby (Out For Season, knee), S A. Makransky (Out Indefinitely, leg), OL R. Cummings (Out Indefinitely, foot), DE C. Granderson (Out For Season, knee), DE T. Meader (Out For Season, knee), RB K. Overstreet (Out Indefinitely, undisclosed).
ABOUT BYU (8-4 SU, 9-3 ATS, 3-9 O/U): Mangum saw action in the last three games, completing 14-of-18 pass for 145 yards and two touchdowns, and appears to be less of a running threat than Hill (603 yards, eight TDs this season) although he carried seven times for 30 yards in 2016. Only one of the Cougars’ eight victories came against a winning FBS team (9-3 Toledo) while the four-game winning streak they ride saw them outscore clubs with a combined 15-32 record 136-29, including 37-7 over FCS member Southern Utah (6-5). BYU’s four losses to Utah, UCLA, West Virginia and Boise State were by a combined eight points while their victories include Arizona, Michigan State and Cincinnati on the road, along with Mississippi State and Toledo at home.
ABOUT WYOMING (8-5 SU, 8-5 ATS, 9-4 O/U): The Cowboys could find the going better through the air and sophomore Josh Allen (2,996 yards, 26 touchdown passes) appears capable of exploiting this weakness in the Cougars’ defense, although his 13 interceptions are cause for concern. Senior wide receiver Tanner Gentry (18.7 yards per 65 receptions, 12 touchdowns) is Allen’s favorite target while senior tight end Jacob Hollister boasts seven TDs among his 30 receptions. Wyoming’s non-conference schedule included a 40-34 triple-overtime victory over Northern Illinois and a 52-17 loss at Nebraska.
* Cougars are 4-0 ATS in their last 4 vs. MWC.
* Cowboys are 4-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
* Under is 6-0 in Cougars last 6 non-conference games.
* Over is 7-1 in Cowboys last 8 games following a ATS win.
* Cougars are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 meetings.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The Covers public is backing Wyoming with 57 percent of wagers on the Cowboys. The Over is getting 55 percent of the total action. View full consensus data here.