This is the fourth in a 12-day series looking at Michigan State’s opponents this football season and their chances against the Spartans.
Week 4: Wyoming
Time and Date: Noon, Sept. 27
Venue: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
TV: ESPN, ABC or BTN
Cowboys at a glance
Coach: Craig Bohl (first season)
Last season: 5-7 overall; 3-5 Mountain West (5th, Mountain Division)
Returning starters: 14 (six offense, eight defense)
Preseason magazine predictions
Athlon: 4th, MWC Mountain Division; ranked No. 94 nationally
Lindy’s: 4th, Mountain Division; ranked No. 95
Sporting News: 4th, Mountain Division
Why they’ll beat the Spartans
Their coach certainly knows how to win with less, and do so on the road against an unsuspecting favorite. Bohl coached North Dakota State to the last three FCS national titles, going 43-2 in from 2011-13 with the Bison. They won at higher-division foes Minnesota, Colorado State (both rather easily) and Kansas State during that span.
The Cowboys return junior running back Shaun Wick (101 yards against Nebraska last season) and three starting receivers, including senior Dominic Rufran, who caught 75 passes last season. And junior defensive end Eddie Yarbrough should be a legitimate test of MSU’s offensive tackles. There are pockets of talent on this roster, perhaps enough to better than projected.
Why they won’t
They’re not North Dakota State. Bohl would have a better chance if he were still coaching the Bison, or if junior quarterback Brett Smith hadn’t strangely bolted for the NFL (only to go undrafted). Bohl’s pedigree is on defense. Unfortunately for him, “pedigree” can’t make a tackle. To steal a line from Jud Heathcote: The good news, the Cowboys have almost everyone back on defense; the bad news, the Cowboys have almost everyone back on defense. Wyoming allowed 220 yards per game on the ground last season.
By this point, the Spartan Stadium crowd will be getting restless for a challenge and for Big Ten play. Is this a letdown game? It has the makings of a listless afternoon. MSU will know exactly what it’s facing at this point, because Wyoming plays at Oregon two weeks earlier and one week after the Spartans’ trip to Eugene. This is a good year to catch the Cowboys, before Bohl — a wonderful hire — has a chance to put his stamp on Wyoming’s program.