One of these two teams is guaranteed to get their first win of the season. The loser will be sitting with an 0-4 record. This will be the first ever time the Cowboys have played in the Kibbie Dome. Despite Idaho and Wyoming being neighbors the two schools have only played each other five times. They last met in 1950 and Wyoming holds a 4-1 lead in the series.
The Vandals have plenty to fight for right now. They are in flux with the demise of the WAC. Geographically Idaho fits in quite well with the Mountain West footprint. Craig Thompson and the Mountain West have said "Thanks but no thanks" to Idaho joining the league and now their FBS future is uncertain. I'm sure they will have plenty of motivation when facing their only Mountain West opponent this year.
For Wyoming this game is about redemption after two narrow losses. An unusual rash of injuries have plagued the offensive line and starting quarterback Brett Smith may miss his second straight game after suffering a concussion in week two.
The Cowboys had high expections this year. A win here is crucial to help right the ship. The two areas that need the biggest improvement are 3rd down conversions and run defense. On the season the Pokes have converted just 17% of their third down attempts (6 of 35). Meanwhile their opponents are completing 48% of their third down conversions.
On the ground Wyoming is giving up an average 269 yards per game. Opponents are averaging 5.09 yards per carry. Idaho only averages 1.59 yards per carry but that won't stop them from trying exploit the Wyoming run defense.
To help us get to know the Vandals better we reached out to Sean Kramer from Vandal Nation. He answered five of our questions.
What can we expect from the Vandals on offense with Dominque Blackman?
The offense is a quick hit offense that relied on the receivers getting the ball in space and gaining YAC. Blackman is a very accurate intermediate quarterback with a lot of zip on the ball. Idaho has quick, shifty receivers for him to get the ball to as well. If Idaho is successful on offense Saturday it's because they are converting on third down and working methodical, clock eating drives with Blackman getting the ball out in one or two reads.
Is the run game really struggling this year or just not a big part of the offense?
A little bit of both. Against Eastern Washington the box was often loaded, forcing Logan Bushnell to throw the ball, which he obviously did poorly. Against Bowling Green it was ineffective early, so OC Jason Gesser started going to what worked, which was Blackman throwing the ball. He did, for 352 yards, but the lack of a running game meant a lack of quality third down opportunities. And LSU, well, nobody runs on LSU. The Vandals will definitely commit to the run against Wyoming, and look for the quick Todd Handley to get a lot of looks.
Wyoming had a couple recruits last year that ended up at Idaho. Do Jayshawn Jordan or Ma'ne Manea have a shot at playing this season?
Manea unfortunately suffered a season ending injury in fall camp and will be redshirting. Jordan has been listed on the two deep as the fourth or fifth corner and gets some special teams looks.
The Vandals and Cowboys are both 0-3. Did you project a better record for Idaho heading into this game?
I thought a loss to Eastern was fathomable, but not likely. 1-2 was kind of my worst case coming in this game but in retrospect, 0-3 isn't incredibly surprising. What we lament is that if Blackman would have played week 1, this team could have been 2-1. But, hey, that is college football.
Give us the latest on the Vandals plans for the future. Indy or FCS... what is the plan?
Re: Conference: AD Rob Spear has been on record with a plan for FBS independence but the scheduling contracts have yet to be released. It's worrisome for us because during the news conference he made it seem like he had the schools lined up for the schedule. Perhaps he is waiting until all the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted, but until the schedule is released we can't be certain of what Idaho's future is.