Wyoming (3-5) at Fresno State (3-5) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Bulldog Stadium (41,031) -- Fresno, California. Television: ESPN 2. Home Record: Wyoming 3-1, FSU 2-1. Away Record: Wyoming 0-4, FSU 1-4. Neutral Record: Wyoming 0-0, FSU 0-0. Conference Record: Wyoming 1-3, FSU 2-2. Series Record: Fresno State leads, 5-4.
GAME NOTES: The Wyoming Cowboys go searching for their first road win of the season on Saturday night, as they pay a visit to the Fresno State Bulldogs for a Mountain West Conference clash.
Wyoming, which last won on the road on Sept. 21, 2013 versus Air Force in Colorado Springs, has lost four in a row overall and five of the last six outings, after opening the campaign with back-to-back victories over Montana and the aforementioned Falcons.
Last weekend, the team was caught up in a dog fight with Colorado State in Fort Collins, where the Rams secured a 45-31 victory. Not only are the Cowboys 0-4 on the road this season, they are also just 1-3 in conference.
As for the Bulldogs, they were 3-3 after six games but are now two games under .500, and could very easily miss out on the postseason unless they run the table, and even then nothing is promised to a program that is a mere two games over .500 by season's end. The squad has been stewing since the last outing on Oct. 17 in Idaho when it bowed to Boise State by a final of 37-27 on the blue turf.
The Bulldogs hold a narrow 5-4 advantage in the all-time series, thanks to a 48-10 romp in the 2013 clash between the two programs.
Just minutes into the second half last Saturday, the Cowboys found themselves trailing by a score of 31-3 to CSU, but at least the Pokes showed signs of life and never gave up, scoring four touchdowns in the final 20 minutes. Wyoming generated 454 yards of total offense, but at the same time surrendered 558 yards to a Colorado State team that is earning votes in this week's AP poll.
Quarterback Colby Kirkegaard had a career day for the Pokes, throwing for 335 yards and two touchdowns, hitting 24-of-38 passes while being sacked three times in the annual Border War. Tanner Gentry reeled in six passes for a team- best 96 yards and a score, while Brian Hill ran for a game-high 121 yards and tallied two TDs on 28 attempts.
Unfortunately, as well as Kirkegaard and Hill performed, the defense for the Cowboys was exposed by CSU signal caller Garrett Grayson, who completed all but three of his 21 attempts for 390 yards and five touchdowns.
Through eight games, the Wyoming pass defense has been rather week, giving up 255.9 ypg and ranking 120th in the nation in terms of pass efficiency defense with a rating of 156.54. Allowing opponents to convert 49.2 percent of their third-down efforts (118th in the country) hasn't helped the Pokes either.
Kirkegaard has had his moments, but too often he has come up short when trying to get his team over the hump. He has completed 57.9 percent of his passes for 210.2 ypg and nine TDs, but also has six interceptions. Dominic Rufran may pace the program with 33 catches for 454 yards, but he has yet to cross the goal line which has to be frustrating for a receiver who was supposed to be one of the elite threats in the MWC heading into this season.
On the ground, the Cowboys are putting their faith in Shaun Wick who has 705 yards and five of their nine scoring runs, but that's what you would expect from a player who has twice as many carries (112) as any of his teammates.
The most notable change for the Bulldogs, having had a couple of weeks to prepare for this meeting, is the news that redshirt freshman Zach Greenlee will be making his first career start at quarterback. Greenlee, who threw for 109 yards and a score in a meeting with Utah State earlier in the campaign, is taking over for Brian Burrell who started the first eight games, throwing for 1,468 yards and 12 TDs, but also seven interceptions.
With the insertion of Greenlee into the lineup, this marks the first time since 2006 that the Bulldogs have had more than one starter at quarterback in any season. The move to Greenlee might also have something to do with the fact that FSU ranks 105th in the country in red zone offense, scoring just 75.8 percent of the time.
While there is a change under center, one of the crucial parts that remains the same for the Bulldogs is running back Marteze Waller who is closing in on 1,000 yards for the season. Waller, who is averaging 6.65 yards per carry, has seven TDs on the ground, which should give Greenlee some measure of comfort moving forward.
The marquee change in the lineup has been made on the offensive side of the ball, but the Bulldogs could stand to shake things up on the other side as well, given that they are 110th nationally with 472.6 ypg allowed and are 109th in points surrendered, 35.8 ppg, although much of that last stat stems from the first three games of the season when the group permitted a combined 166 points.
Perhaps most troubling for the FSU defense these days is how poorly they cover receivers. Through eight games, the Bulldogs are next-to-last in the FBS with a pass efficiency defense rating of 164.63, stemming from the fact that they've surrendered 21 touchdowns and picked off only four passes. One of those four picks has been made by Kyrie Wilson, who also happens to pace the program in tackles (66) and is tied for the lead with a pair of forced fumbles.
Giving Greenlee the start should provide the Bulldogs with some spark, one that they desperately need if they hope to salvage the season. As competitive as Wyoming can be, coming in winless on the road is certainly bulletin board material for Fresno State as it attempts to get back on track.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Fresno State 34, Wyoming 21Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 1, 10:45 p.m. (ET).