Brigham Young Cougars vs. Wyoming Cowboys, Wednesday Dec. 21, 9 p.m. ET
I've had a thing for the Poinsettia Bowl since 2008. That was the year that No. 11 TCU and No. 9 Boise State met in a matchup where the teams severely overachieved their lot in life because the big bowls weren't interested in lesser-conference teams. TCU fell behind 13-0 but came back to win 17-16 and deal Boise State their first loss. It was a better game than several of the BCS games that year - and the matchup was much better than some, too. We haven't seen anything quite like that since, but there have been some fun games along the way - like Boise State last year beating the tar out of Northern Illinois 55-7.
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This year's matchup promises some intrigue. BYU and Wyoming are both flawed but interesting teams, and they have a long-but-recently-dormant rivalry - this is their 78th meeting, though they last played in 2010.
Poinsettia Bowl Betting Storylines
These teams both ended their regular seasons at 8-4, but they got there in very different ways. BYU scheduled tough out of the gate, and they struggled for it - after beating Arizona to open the season they lost to Utah, UCLA and West Virginia to drop to 1-3. They only lost those games by a combined seven points, though, so they actually covered the spread in each outing. From there they got very hot, with a one-point loss to Boise State the lone blemish the rest of the way and a shellacking of Michigan State the highlight.
Wyoming, meanwhile, was stronger out of the gate, opening at 7-2. But then they dropped two of their final three, starting with a truly crazy 69-66 overtime loss to UNLV, and then they lost the Mountain West championship game to San Diego State as well. So, BYU has won four straight, while Wyoming has just one win in four. And while they no longer share a conference, they did have two common opponents. BYU lost at Boise State by a point, while Wyoming won by two at home. And both teams beat up on Utah State at home, though Wyoming's 24-point margin of victory was slightly more impressive that BYU's 18.
BYU QB Taysom Hill, who seems to have been in college for about 20 years, is injured and won't be able to play in this game. That means that sophomore Tanner Mangum will be called upon. He has attempted just 18 passes this year, completing 14 of them for two touchdowns. He played all of last year, though, when Hill was yet again injured, and he was solidly efficient. We shouldn't expect too much of a falloff without Hill here. What Mangum doesn't bring that Hill does so well, though, is a running game. Hill was the second-leading rusher for the Cougars with 600 yards and eight touchdowns. Mangum, meanwhile, is completely flat-footed - last season he wound up with a total of -96 rushing yards. That is a Peyton Manning-esque command of the ground game.
Wyoming has a decent-but-not-exceptional quarterback in Josh Allen. What will make or break this team in this game, though, is running back Brian Hill. He ran for 1,767 yards and scored 21 times. His 5.5 yards per carry are more than acceptable, too. This sets up an interesting matchup that will almost certainly define the game. BYU is stout against the run - their 108.5 yards per game allowed is eighth best in the country. It's a strength-against-strength showdown, and the team that prevails here will likely win the game.
Poinsettia Bowl Odds and Betting Trends
The game opened with BYU favored by 7.5, and that has moved to 8.5 in early action. A small majority of bets have been placed on BYU, so the line movement isn't surprising. Barring a major development, we aren't likely to see a big move. The total opened at 57 and has fallen just slightly to 56.
The Cougars are 4-1 ATS in their last five games and 8-3 ATS in their last 11 games. They have covered the spread in their last four against the Mountain West Conference. The Cowboys are 7-2 ATS in their last nine games overall but just 3-7 ATS in their last 10 nonconference games. They are 4-1 ATS in their last five against teams with winning records. BYU has a 44-30-3 straight up edge in games between the squads.
Brigham Young vs. Wyoming Poinsettia Bowl Expert Picks & Predictions
If Taysom Hill was healthy I would probably play this game differently. I think Brian Hill is going to be able to run the ball here, though, and that will have an impact. Wyoming will be able to throw the ball as well. Wyoming coach Craig Bohl knows how to get teams ready for big games - and he has three straight FCS titles at North Dakota State to prove it. BYU plays tight games, and this should be another one. This many points is a lot for them to give up, and I think that it gives Wyoming enough room to provide some value. Wyoming is the play.
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