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Wyoming vs. Utah State Football Prediction and Preview

Logan Bonner, Utah State Aggies

Logan Bonner and the Aggies look to take another step towards the Mountain West's Mountain Division title with a win at home on Saturday night over the bowl-seeking Cowboys

The Wyoming Cowboys and Utah State Aggies are set to meet in Logan Saturday night in a Mountain West Conference game with major implications for both teams. After a 4-0 record in non-conference action to open its season, Wyoming is just 1-5 since, including a 23-13 loss to Boise State last week, and still needs one victory to become bowl eligible. Utah State, which beat San Jose State 48-17 (its fifth consecutive victory) to improve to 8-2 overall and 5-1 in Mountain West play, can take another big step towards the Mountain Division title with a win over the Cowboys.

Wyoming at Utah State

Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 20 at 8 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Utah State -5

When Wyoming Has the Ball

He didn't open the season as the starting quarterback, but Levi Williams wrestled the job away from Sean Chambers last month and will likely stay atop the depth chart again this week. Williams, who started in 2020 after Chambers suffered a season-ending injury, has completed 51.4 percent of his passes for 460 yards and five touchdowns with four interceptions in six games, including three starts. Chambers threw for 1,100 yards with six touchdowns and seven interceptions while completing half (50.6 percent) of his passes in seven starts. Both can add value as runners, as Williams has gained 217 yards (including 116 in the 31-17 win over Colorado State two weeks ago) with a touchdown and Chambers has 194 rushing yards and three scores.

Neither Williams nor Chambers have been efficient passers, but Wyoming does have a big-play threat in receiver Isaiah Neyor. The sophomore leads the Cowboys with 32 receptions, 588 yards, and nine touchdowns, having scored five times combined over his last three games. Only one Mountain West receiver has scored more, and only two have averaged better than Neyor's 18.71 yards per catch.

Other than Neyor, options are limited in the Wyoming passing attack. Ayden Eberhardt, who ranks second on the team with 21 receptions and 298 yards, was lost to injury, leaving running back Xazavian Valladay (20 rec., 214 yds.) as the active No. 2 on the team's stat sheet. Tight end Treyton Welch (14, 114, 2 TDs) is the only other player on the roster with a touchdown catch.

Valladay leads the Cowboys with 797 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 156 carries, but Titus Swen (549 yds., 4 TDs) has taken on a heavier workload in recent weeks. Swen gained 166 yards on 21 carries against Colorado State and led the team with 59 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries last week.

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When Utah State Has the Ball

Quarterback Logan Bonner, who followed head coach Blake Anderson from Arkansas State following the 2020 season, has helped to turn around the Aggies offense. Bonner has completed 61.5 percent of his passes for 2,749 yards and 25 touchdowns with an average of 8.8 yards per pass attempt that leads Mountain West starters. Bonner has thrown 10 interceptions, which is tied for the most in the league, but his ability to make big plays has more than offset his turnovers.

Speaking of big plays, few receivers in college football have had more than Deven Thompkins. In fact, Thompkins leads all FBS players in catches of at least 10 yards (53), 20 yards (27), and 30 yards (16), and he is tied for second nationally with nine catches of 40 yards or more. Thompson leads the country with 1,441 receiving yards and 144.1 yards per contest, and his 77 receptions (including eight touchdowns) lead the Mountain West and rank among the top 10 overall. But Thompkins isn't the only quality receiver for Bonner, as Derek Wright (32 rec., 519 yds., 8 TDs), fellow Arkansas State transfer Brandon Bowling (35, 495, 5), and Justin McGriff (29, 341, 4) round out a deep unit. The Aggies can also move the chains on the ground with running backs Calvin Tyler Jr. and Elelyon Noa, who have combined for 1,049 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.

Final Analysis

Wyoming linebacker Chad Muma, who recently accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl, may be the single best player on the field Saturday. Muma, who is one of 11 FBS players with more than 100 tackles to his credit this season, also has 7.5 tackles for a loss, a sack, and three interceptions — two of which he returned for touchdowns. Led by Muma, Wyoming's defense has kept the Cowboys' bowl hopes alive as the unit has held FBS opponents to 5.8 yards per pass attempt and 4.86 yards per play, which rank No. 8 and No. 15 in the country, respectively, as well as 0.121 predicted points added per play, which ranks No. 25. Utah State ranks 51st (7.2), 76th (5.78), and 70th (0.201), respectively, in those three categories.

Thinking back to preseason expectations, it wouldn't have been a huge surprise for this matchup to feature one team in first place in the division race and the other fighting to become bowl eligible. However, most would have expected Wyoming to be the title contender and the Aggies to still have work to do to secure a postseason spot. The Cowboys have struggled to score enough to meet preseason expectations, and despite Muma and a quality defense, Utah State should have enough offensive firepower to outscore them this week as well.

Prediction: Utah State 30, Wyoming 23

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— Written by Nicholas Ian Allen, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and managing editor of CFBWinningEdge. Follow him on Twitter @CFBWinningEdge.