cowboys corner

Only two more Saturdays this fall of University of Wyoming-less football. To help bridge that gap, the Mountain West Conference has given its members a revised 2020 schedule.

It’s an eight-game conference-only slate, featuring nearly the exact same foes Wyoming was tabbed to play this season. The only change is the Pokes hosting Hawaii instead of San Diego State.

One thing to note, the MWC will not feature divisions this fall. Instead, all members are grouped into one 12-team conference with the top two teams playing one another for the conference crown in mid December.

Will Wyoming be one of those two teams? Can the Pokes play for a conference title? Let’s take a dive into Wyoming’s path.

The original, pre COVID-19, Cowboys’ 2020 schedule set up quite fortuitously. The difficult Mountain Division games were at home and the toughest cross-divisional game was in Laramie, as well.

With the schedule having not changed much at all, it remains in Wyoming's favor. Air Force, Boise State and Utah State — the three teams that finished ahead of the Pokes in the final 2019 standings — all come to War Memorial Stadium.

Now, two of those contests, Air Force and Utah State, are played on back-to-back weeks, Nov. 14 and 21. The Boise State game is the regular-season finale slated for Dec. 12.

The MWC almost assuredly did what the SEC and Big Ten noticeably did. The schedule wasn’t completely randomized. The conferences made sure that its marquee matchups against heavyweights were toward or at the end of the season.

Wyoming battling Boise State in the regular-season finale is big time, and the Pokes should be flattered that it’s the final regular-season week of the season. ESPN will most certainly be involved in the telecast, as it could be a preview of the Mountain West Conference title game played the week thereafter.

UW’s cross-divisional games include at Nevada, versus Hawaii and at UNLV. The Wolf Pack qualified to a bowl game in 2019, while UNLV was buried in the basement and is breaking in a new coach in 2020.

It will be interesting to see how Wyoming fares in the season opener. Nevada — which will have zero fans in attendance — returns its quarterback, leading rusher and leading receiver. The Pokes welcome back a bevy of offensive firepower, as well.

That being said, there’s always a large element of the unknown in Week 1. It will be intriguing to see which squad can best mitigate those opening-week blunders and execute at a high enough level to win. It doesn’t take much to see that teams across the nation have more rust than normal this season, likely due to many COVID-19 interruptions.

The Cowboys open their home schedule, hosting reigning West Division champion, Hawaii, on Halloween. The Rainbow Warriors will have to make their longest trip within the conference, and rest assured Wyoming will be juiced for its home opener in front of 7,000 fans.

The Pokes travel to Fort Collins in Week 3 and battle a rival that they’ve run roughshod on in recent memory. Colorado State is also breaking in a new head coach, and that won’t make things any easier for the Rams.

Then comes the critical, and proverbial make-or-break, stretch for UW — playing host to Air Force and Utah State. Both teams will feature new starting quarterbacks, but that didn't seem to affect the Falcons in the slightest as they eviscerated Navy last weekend.

A couple roadies at the doormat Rebels and New Mexico Lobos should provide little resistance for the Cowboys. That sets the stage for a monumental showdown against Boise State in Laramie.

The schedule sets up nicely for Wyoming. If the Pokes can defend War Memorial Stadium — like they did in 2019 when they went 6-0 — there’s no reason to think UW can’t play for a MWC championship.

 

Pokes Notes

Former University of Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen had another solid day leading Buffalo to a 4-0 start. He went 24-for-34 for 288 yards and two touchdowns in the Bills’s 30-23 win at Las Vegas.

Former UW defensive back Tashaun Gipson recorded nine tackles — second highest on the team — in Chicago’s 19-11 loss against Indianapolis.

Former UW safety Andrew Wingard logged 10 tackles — second highest on the team — in Jacksonville’s 33-25 loss at Cincinnati.

Bud Denega, former sports reporter at The Sheridan Press, is a graduate of the University of Wyoming and currently works as assistant sports information director at Northwestern State University. He is pursuing a masters degree in sports administration.

Cowboys Corner columnist

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