It’s hard to lose your starting QB to the NFL draft. It’s even harder when you don’t have a plethora of blue chips waiting in line behind him. But when your offense wasn’t very good anyway, you might just be OK.
In 2017, the Wyoming offense was ranked 119th out of 130. That’s pretty bad. That’s not normal for an offense led by the 7th pick in the NFL draft.
Somehow, Wyoming was even worse when Josh Allen didn’t play. Allen missed two games, vs. Fresno State and at San Jose State, and the Cowboys lost both. The loss to Fresno was excusable. It was a close game against a very good team. The loss to San Jose State was very, very bad.
I can’t emphasis that enough.
The Spartans had the 128th ranked offense, 117th ranked defense, and were 129th overall. Coming into this senior night game, San Jose State had only beat a 1-10 FCS team.
The Spartans also hadn’t beaten an FBS team in a full year and one with a winning record since October of 2015. Yet they were able to beat the Allen-less Cowboys.
Wyoming was led by Junior Nick Smith, who was 17-37 on the day with 1 touchdown and 2 picks. That’s not the stat line you want to see against one of the worst defenses in the country.
So the question arises, who will be replacing Allen if its not Smith? Redshirt Freshman Tyler Vander Waal is expected to take the reins. Vander Waal was a three-star recruit and was on the Sacramento Bee First Team All-Metro. Vander Waal has a great chance of being a four year starter and growing into a star.
The positive is that even if Vander Waal struggles, the offense can’t really get much worse.
So if the offense was that bad, how did Wyoming win?
Defense. A very good defense. The 7th ranked defense in the country.
This defense will be back in full force. They will likely be the best defense in the Mountain West and could be one of the best in the country. The defense is led by Granderson, Wingard, and Ghaifan, each of whom were placed on the All-MW preseason team and are likely future NFL guys.
Can a great defense really carry them through the Mountain West? Well, it did last year for the most part. The Cowboys held opponents at or under 21 points in nine of their thirteen games and they won seven of those.
The two games that the Cowboys lost while holding the opponent under 21 were the two games without Allen. The only teams that put up more than 21 were Iowa, Oregon, Boise State, and Utah State. In those games they went 1-3, beating Utah State.
If you want to watch some wild west shoot-outs, don’t watch these Cowboys. They’re more of the stare you down and kill you with one shot type.
If you liked the 2017 Wyoming Cowboys, then you should be happy to get more of the same. Great defense and bad offense. But, if Vander Waal can lead a half decent offense, this can be a very strong team and a contender for the Mountain Division title.
Wyoming’s season kicks off with a week zero match-up against New Mexico State. Cowboy’s fans feel that this game is likely going to be a big indicator of if the offense is going to be good enough. Lose and it’s going to be a rough year. Win and it should be a solid run.
This year, the Cowboys should be strong enough to keep scores low enough for a solid season. But if the offense can step it up, this is team can go on a great run.
Projections: 7-5 (5-3) W, L, L, W, L, W, L, L, W, W, W, W