UConn Football Opponent Preview: Wyoming
UConn football will open the 2021 season on the road against Fresno State ahead of its home opener against FCS Holy Cross. The Huskies have another home game against Purdue before hitting the road to face Army.
Hopefully the Huskies have a win at this point. Two would be impressive.
On September 25 at 3:30 p.m., they will host a balanced team from Wyoming who will likely be favored. Bettors have put the Cowboys above / below for eight-way wins and for good reason as the team returns a lot of talent to both sides of the ball.
Head Coach and Recent History
Craig Bohl is entering his eighth season as Wyoming’s head coach, posting an 82-38 record in the past seven years, including three eight-game seasons. The Cowboys have gone 2-4 in the pandemic shortened season of 2020, but Bohl recently signed a contract extension until 2024 and likely has decent job security given his good results in the l ‘together.
Prior to COVID-19, Wyoming had experienced a string of bowl-eligible seasons, winning eight games in 2016 and 2017 for the first bowl appearances of the Bohl era. Josh Allen, who now plays for the Buffalo Bills, led them to their first bowl victory in 2017, a 37-14 triumph over Central Michigan in the famed Idaho Potato Bowl.
Wyoming’s two victories came from Hawaii and the UNLV. They lost by threes in their first game of the season in Nevada and suffered a one-point loss to New Mexico, essentially games that could have gone either way. Their losses to Boise State and Colorado State, the conference class that year, were both within 10 points. Despite the 2-4 record, they finished in a solid 77th place overall F + – 108th offensively and 60th defensively.
Starting quarterback Sean Chambers was injured in Game 1, leaving substitute Levi Williams to start all six games. He completed just under 50% of his passes and threw just one touchdown to go with 877 yards and three interceptions. The 6-foot-5, 224-pound Williams also ran for six touchdowns.
Running back Xazavian Valladay took first-team all-conference honors for the second time, averaging 5.6 yards per carry and 110 rushing yards per game, while totaling 112 receiving yards in five games. Offensive lineman Keegan Cryder was also on the first team, as was linebacker Chad Muma. First-year kicker John Hoyland made the second team.
Athlon says at least nine starters are returning for a Wyoming defense that was pretty good last year and notes that the defense will benefit from the return of a handful of players who have retired from the 2020 season.
Offensively, Wyoming is counting on new offensive coordinator Tim Polasek, hired away from Iowa, to reinvigorate a unit that has a lot of talent to work with. Chambers is the likely starter at the quarterback and has a solid running game to work with that should help relieve his pressure as he learns a new pattern. Valladay returns as is second point guard Trey Smith, who ran for 488 yards and five touchdowns in six games last season.
The top two wide receivers from last year, wide receivers Ayden Eberhardt (252 yards) and Isaiah Neyor (248 yards) are also back. Valladay was their third main receiver in 2020.
UConn’s starting quarterback, whoever he is, will have to be wise beyond his years to be successful in this game. This is their fifth game of the season and at home it is certainly possible. The Huskies can also feature a powerful offense that makes quarterback playmaking easier, a familiar formula for Randy Edsall and this program.
In any case, it will be a difficult competition for UConn. Wyoming have an overall advantage given the maturity of the program under Bohl and the impressive array of returning talent, especially defensively. It might be a less marked game than some of the others, and UConn could keep this one close, but I see the Cowboys winning this one. Wyoming 24, UConn 16