The Wyoming Cowboys put their undefeated record on the line in a trip to Colorado Springs to face their Mountain West Conference rivals, the Air Force Falcons. Wyoming survived a scare in its last game, a trip to Connecticut on Sept. 25, beating the Huskies 24-22 to improve to 4-0 before taking last week off. Air Force improved to 4-1 with a 38-10 victory on the road against New Mexico last week and evened its Mountain West record at 1-1.
Wyoming at Air Force
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 9 at 7 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Air Force -6
When Wyoming Has the Ball
Wyoming is at its best running the football, and Xazavian Valladay leads the way once again with 340 rushing yards and four touchdowns on the ground. Valladay, who was the team leader in rushing yards in 2020 (550) and 2019 (1,256), notched his second 100-yard game of the season — and the 10th of his career —against UConn. He also has scored a rushing touchdown in all four games this season. Titus Swen has stepped into the primary backup role after not playing last year and ranks second with 195 yards and two touchdowns on 39 carries. Quarterback Sean Chambers is back after missing nearly the entire 2020 season due to injury and has re-emerged as a capable runner with 108 yards two scores on the ground this season.
Chambers has had some success through the air as well. The junior has completed 58.2 percent of his passes for 750 yards, five touchdowns, and three interceptions (two of them against Connecticut), while averaging 7.7 yards per pass attempt. Isaiah Neyor has been a big piece of the puzzle and leads the Pokes with 13 receptions for 227 yards and three touchdowns while averaging an explosive 17.5 yards per catch. Ayden Eberhardt is a steady presence with 12 catches and 167 yards, and Valladay has chipped in with eight receptions and 131 yards while two of tight end Treyton Welch's five catches have gone for touchdowns.
When Air Force Has the Ball
Wyoming has a good ground game, but no one runs it better than Air Force. The Falcons lead the nation with 367.4 rushing yards per game — nearly 50 yards better than No. 2 Army — and though no team runs more (67.0 attempts per contest), Air Force doesn't just rely on volume. The Falcons rank 15th overall with 5.5 yards per carry.
Running back Brad Roberts has carried the heaviest load with 117 carries, five of which have gone for touchdowns, and a team-leading 540 yards. Roberts is one of six Air Force players with at least 100 rushing yards this season and is one of four with 200 yards or more. Quarterback Haaziq Daniels runs the option to near perfection, including 419 yards and a team-high eight touchdowns on 71 carries, and the team's overall work on the ground has been supported by wide receivers Micah Davis (261 rushing yards, 4 TDs) and DeAndre Hughes (128, TD) and fullbacks Emmanuel Michel (206, 2) and Omar Fattah (129). Davis also is the team leader with eight receptions, 188 yards, and a touchdown.
Air Force doesn't throw much — the Falcons have attempted just 34 passes all season — or complete a high percentage (44.1 percent overall, including 45.5 percent for Daniels), but Daniels can throw. Opposing defenses can be lulled to sleep by the triple option, which is a big reason why Air Force has averaged 11.1 yards per pass attempt. Only Coastal Carolina (12.0) has been better.
Defensively, Wyoming ranks third in the country by holding FBS opponents to 5.0 yards per pass attempt. Of course, the Cowboys will be more focused on the Air Force rushing attack. Fortunately, the Pokes have had an extra week to prepare given their usually stout defense has allowed an average of 148.3 rushing yards per game to rank 81st nationally. Meanwhile, opponents have managed just 89.4 rushing yards per game against the Falcons, which ranks 13th. Air Force has also held its opponents to a 31.2 percent success rate on non-garbage plays, according to collegefootballdata.com, which ranks fourth overall.
This is a matchup of evenly matched teams. Though Wyoming is always a tough out and comes in with the confidence of an undefeated record, as well as an extra week of preparation for the Falcons' option attack, Air Force has the top rushing offense in the country, a solid defense, and home-field advantage. It should be close, but the Falcons should come away with the win.
Prediction: Air Force 28, Wyoming 23
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