For the third time in four years, the Wyoming Cowboys are “Bohling”. Craig Bohl’s team will take on the Georgia State Panthers in the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl in Tucson. This should be a nice change of pace for Georgia State. It is the third bowl game in program history, but the previous two were the Cure Bowl. This is a little bit of a travel to see something different.
And that travel could end up being a big deal here. Tucson is a long way from Atlanta and is also up about 2,400 feet in elevation. It certainly isn’t Laramie, Wyoming by any means, but it is a real change of pace for Georgia State, considering they don’t play very high up unless they go to Appalachian State. For Wyoming, it is business as usual as far as playing in some elevation goes.
Wyoming is favored by a touchdown with a total of 48.5 in this one.
Georgia State secured bowl eligibility with a 52-33 win over Troy that capped off a four-game winning streak. After that, the Panthers lost three of their last four and did so with a quarterback playing through a torn ACL. It’s not like a torn ACL would get better over the extended layoff between the end of the regular season and the Arizona Bowl, but at least Dan Ellington has some more time to manage his symptoms.
The senior QB has been the heart and soul of this team. He tore his ACL in the game against ULM and was limited in that game and the game against Appalachian State. He played well against South Alabama going 21-of-27 for 208 and two touchdowns. As you would expect, though, his legs have not been nearly as effective in the scrambling game. He was sacked five times in the Georgia Southern loss.
Ellington has a 21/7 TD/INT ratio this season and took his completion percentage up from 59.6% last season to 65% this season. He’ll have to be the best player on the field if Georgia State wants to pull off the upset. Tra Barnett ripped off six yards per carry for 1,389 yards in the regular season and 12 touchdowns, but running on Wyoming is extremely tough. Wyoming ranked fifth in the country in yards per carry allowed with 2.72 and only allowed nine rushing touchdowns. The Cowboys were 11th in scoring defense with just 17.8 points per game allowed.
That is a huge part of the mismatch in this game. Wyoming runs the rock a ton and Georgia State ranked 120th in the nation with 5.32 yards per carry allowed. The Panthers allowed 31 rushing touchdowns. Overall, Georgia State ranked 121st in yards per play allowed with 6.64. Wyoming was 24th with 4.99 YPP allowed.
What could keep this game close is the Wyoming offense. The Cowboys only threw for 1,536 yards and only managed 5.33 yards per play overall. The slow tempo and a lot of running are going to make it really difficult for bettors to step up and lay a touchdown with the Cowboys. To make matters worse, Wyoming QB Sean Chambers remains out with an injury he suffered earlier in the year. He was not a good passer with a 43% completion rate, but he was a terrific runner with 6.3 yards per carry on 90 attempts.
It really helped in the running game to have a complement to Xazavian Valladay, who ran for 1,061 yards with 4.8 yards per carry in the regular season. The loss of Chambers took away Wyoming’s second-leading rusher. Tyler Vander Waal only completed 51.6% of his passes with a 1/4 TD/INT ratio and he was sacked 11 times in his games. He also ran 27 times for -19 yards. His longest run was 11 yards. Chambers had a 75-yard scamper.
Chambers, who will be back next year for his sophomore season, oversaw Wyoming games in which the offense scored 37, 23, 21, 21, 53, 22, 23, and 31. Vander Waal also played that last game against Nevada when Chambers got hurt, but his games wound up with 17, 21, 17, and 6 points. Wyoming really lost a huge offensive dimension when Chambers suffered the injury.
The obvious starting point for this game is the under. It’s not like Georgia State was overly explosive on offense with 5.85 yards per play. A good chunk of those came on the ground and Wyoming is a top-five rush defense. Georgia State has a really porous defense, but Wyoming has a low-efficiency quarterback. The ground-and-pound has been the preferred style for Wyoming this season and that won’t change here. Georgia State will load up the box and hope for the best.
The altitude and the physical nature of this game are likely to wear Georgia State down. If Ellington has an extra spring in his step with some downtime to nurse the ACL, then they could score enough to get within the number, but Wyoming should be extremely well-prepared defensively. Bohl is 2-0 ATS in bowls at Wyoming and was tremendous in the FCS playoffs with North Dakota State. Wyoming should do just enough to cover the spread here.
Pick: Under 49
Lean: Wyoming -7