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Wyoming Cowboys vs. Utah State Aggies Preview and Prediction

Author:
NIck Vigil

NIck Vigil

It didn't take long for Utah State to come crashing down to Earth again. Head coach Matt Wells' Aggies looked like the new Mountain West Conference title favorite after routing Boise State. That perception changed again after USU suffered a lopsided 48-14 loss to San Diego State. Utah State recorded season lows in passing yards (95) and total offense (239) against the Aztecs.

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The Aggies have a chance to get back on track quickly with a rivalry game against Wyoming this week. It has been a tough season for the Cowboys, who opened the season losing six straight games before finally getting in the win column against Nevada. Wyoming has endured major growing pains while breaking in a slew of newcomers. Twenty six freshmen have played for the Cowboys this season — the most of any Mountain West team.

Utah State has won three in a row over Wyoming in a series dating back to 1903. The teams are meeting for the 66th time and USU leads the series 37-24-4. The Cowboys last won in Logan in 2003.

Wyoming at Utah State

Kickoff: 10:15 pm, ET (Friday)

TV: ESPN2

Spread: Utah State -28

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Three Things to Watch

1. Chasing Records

Two Wyoming players are closing in on setting some major school records. Wyoming RB Brian Hill has accumulated 1,061 yards and three touchdowns through eight games. Hill is the team's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2008 and his rushing yardage total is the 8th highest for a single season in team history. Hill needs 395 yards in the next four games to eclipse the school record of 1,455 rushing yards set by Ryan Christopherson in 1994. Cowboy defensive end Eddie Yarbrough is closing in on first place for career tackles for loss. Yarbrough has tallied 33.5 TFL. He needs three more to pass John Fletcher's school record of 36 tackles for loss set in 2009.

2. Running Ahead

Production in the Utah State backfield has steadily increased during conference play. Junior RB Devante Mays rushed for 88 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 15 carries against San Diego State. In his last four games, Mays has rushed for 303 yards and five touchdowns on 45 carries. Sophomore QB Kent Myers has also proven to be a capable runner. Myers set a school record for rushing yards by a quarterback in Utah State's Mountain West opener against Colorado State when he rushed for a career-high 191 yards on 16 carries.

3. Bridger's Battle

When Utah State joined the Mountain West in 2013 and resumed an annual rivalry with Wyoming, the two schools decided to turn it into a trophy series. The series became known as Bridger's Battle in honor of 19th century mountain man Jim Bridger. Utah State and Wyoming battle each year for possession of a .50 caliber Rocky Mountain Hawken rifle believed to be the type of gun Bridger carried during his lifetime. USU has won both games so far since the traveling trophy was introduced in 2013.

Final Analysis

Utah State still holds the tiebreaker over Boise State in the Mountain Division. As long as the Aggies take care of business, they should reach their second Mountain West Conference championship game in three seasons. Wyoming is unlikely to present much of a challenge. The Cowboys have struggled to move the ball on offense and offer much defensive resistance this season. They won't seriously threaten Utah State's 12 game home winning streak.

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Prediction: Utah State 45, Wyoming 17

— Written by John Coon, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Coon has more than a decade of experience covering sports for different publications and outlets, including The Associated Press, Salt Lake Tribune, ESPN, Deseret News, MaxPreps, Yahoo! Sports and many others. Follow him on Twitter @johncoonsports.