Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Craig Bohl
Wyoming-New Mexico State Betting
Spread: Wyoming -3.5/4
Time: 10 p.m. ET
This will sound insane, but I’m really glad Wyoming-New Mexico State got it’s own solo time slot in the world of college football. No, it’s not that I particularly love the Mountain West, or love this matchup. I don’t even think this game is going to be very much fun.
But I think this game, through the course of the conversations I’ve had about it, highlights the interesting processes in which people assess college football teams. I am betting on this game because of the perceived mismatch that might not be reality.
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We’ll start with the quarterback play, where the most interesting of mental gymnastics have taken place. Josh Allen is an NFL quarterback. For the foreseeable future, that is a fact. And yet the narrative crafted around his most recent season at Wyoming is that there’s nowhere to go but up.
I mean, he wasn’t very good, so how much worse can it get?
Umm…a lot worse? He’s an NFL-caliber quarterback. If you think you’ve seen the floor, you haven’t.
Redshirt freshman Tyler Vander Waal will see his first snaps Saturday night, on the road, and he might be great. But people assume it will be smooth sailing in the transition from Allen, when in reality it could go wrong, and fast.
The skill position players who surrounded Allen are all back, and I mean that in the worst way possible. These weren’t difference makers. These guys struggled, and they weren’t highly-recruited to begin with. There isn’t a lot of talent here, and the Cowboys’ second-leading receiver in terms of returning production will miss the game with an injury.
Wyoming’s depth chart features a starting running back (Nico Evans) who had 11 rushes for 19 yards last year, and sat behind several other more productive players. The offensive line, a complete disaster last year, is somehow incredibly banged up already to start the season.
Three guys in the rotation are playing hurt, and two are already listed as out. The rotation will feature very lowly-recruited redshirt freshman more than you’d ever like to see.
The point of all of this analysis, which some would call Wyoming-bashing, is to point out that the differences between these two teams are being stretched much further than reality. Both teams have very similar 2-year and 5-year recruiting rankings, both have pretty similar returning production on defense, and both need answers at skill positions.
Despite all the love Wyoming coach Craig Bohl gets for his time at North Dakota State, there isn’t a coaching mismatch in this game at all. Doug Martin and his staff have done incredible work. That is not a “plus” for Wyoming.
Having Wyoming still rated significantly better (like, seven points better) when you consider all the similarities seems like a mistake.
Throw in that Craig Bohl is 5-18 straight-up on the road in his four years with the Cowboys, and the likelihood of a mistake grows larger. Consider that he’s been a road favorite four times in the last two years, and the Cowboys have lost all four games outright, and the likelihood of a ratings mistake grows larger still.
None of this purports to say that New Mexico State is a lock in this spot, or even that your edge by taking them is of incredible significance. There’s no way to know that with so many question marks on both sides.
But I think all the uncertainty of both offenses, and the very strong possibility of an ugly, low-scoring game makes the points that much more valuable. Factor in any kind of reasonable home-field advantage — the Aggies are trying desperately to sell out this game with cheap tickets to build the program’s profile in front of a national audience — and I think New Mexico State at anything over a field goal has some value.
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