Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Non-BCS Question Edition: Wyoming

Today begins a new series at Pitch Right, one which I hope will continue with greater regularity than some of my past endeavours here. As many of you know, I am a ardent fan of "small-school" college football ranging from the Division III level on up, including Division I-A's non-BCS conference schools. Starting today and continuing through the summer, we'll take a semi-regular look at the questions facing various non-BCS conference schools heading into the 2007 season. Today we'll take a look at the darkhorse of the Mountain West Conference, the Wyoming Cowboys.

How Good is QB Karstan Sween?

Good enough to be a Honorable Mention Freshmen All-American last year. Sween took over midway though the fifth game against Syracuse last season and led the Pokes to a 5-2 record as a starter, with his only loses coming against TCU and BYU. Karstan was a very highly touted player coming out of High School (Rivals.com had him as their 23rd best Pro-Style QB his senior season) and with last year's experience under his belt should be even better in 2007. He's going to have to get the most out of an underachieving offense though, and cut down on the interceptions in order to lead this team to a Bowl game.

How will the Defense fare without John Wendling?

One of top defenders in the MWC, Safety John Wendling departs after leading the team in tackles the past few seasons. Wendling was an aggressive and smart player in the defensive backfield, but even without him Wyoming's defense, ranked 9th nationally last season, should still be in decent shape. That being said, the defense only returns five starters, including ILB Ward Dobbs, who was second on the team in tackles last year with 69 stops. He will be joined by seniors and last year's starters Luke Chase and Sean Claffey to form an experienced and talented linebacker corps that should be one of the best in the conference. Both starting cornerbacks are back, although both starting safeties depart. The biggest problem is that there is almost no experience on the defensive line, which will be the major area of concern heading into the 2007 season. I expect some drop off, but the unit is well coached and Wendling was mis-utilized as it was last season, so don't expect the defense to suddenly start giving up 400 yards a game.

Will Wyoming Upset Virginia in Week One?

Yes, they will. Playing at War Memorial Stadium is never an easy task for the opponents, especially for teams not used to the altitude. Depending on the source, War Memorial is usually touted as the highest I-A football stadium in the country in terms of elevation, although for some reason the USAFA's Falcon Stadium is sometimes given that honer. Whatever the case may be (I've never actually been to War memoral Stadium) you get the point, the place is high up there, and isn't easy to play in. Virginia is an average ACC team that barely held off a very young Wyoming team last season in overtime, and despite Al Groh's ability to make his team look better than it actually is, I smell upset here, if you can even call it that.

Just for Fun: Wyoming's away uniforms are some of the best looking in college football in you ask me, but the home combination of a brown shirt with yellow pants looks more like something you'd see in the stadium bathrooms than out on the field. I don't know whether these are "special" uniforms or what, but let me just say it's a good thing only 71 people in the country can pick up games from the Mtn, otherwise there would be a massive public outcry that would undercut the on-the-field potential of this program

Adam's Take: Wyoming was a solid team in 2006 that was on the losing end of some bad breaks early in the year which probably kept the Pokes out of a Bowl game. They lost by one point in overtime to Virginia and fell to Syracuse in two overtimes, and were narrowly edged by Boise St. and Air Force by a mere touchdown in each contest. While there are valid concerns on both the offensive and defensive lines, I look for last year's young skill position players, including rSo. Karstan Sween, to give the offense a boost after an anemic year. If the offense can work the ball into the hands of playmakers like Hoost Marsh, then the Cowboys should score more points in 2007, and despite the valuable loses on the defense, it's coached well enough not to regress too much after a stellar 2006. This team doesn't have enough talent to take down MWC heavyweights like TCU or BYU, but I see them winning seven or eight games in 2007 and playing in a Bowl game.

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