LARAMIE– Two of the teams in contention for the 2017 Mountain West Conference Championship will take the field in Wyoming’s War Memorial Stadium on Saturday as the Wyoming Cowboys and Fresno State Bulldogs will kick off at Noon, Mountain Time. Both teams will enter the game with identical 7-3 overall records and 5-1 conference marks.
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UW’s Fight for the Mountain Division Title
Wyoming trails Boise State, which is 6-0 in the MW, by one game in the chase for the Mountain Division title. The Cowboys lost their head-to-head meeting in Boise earlier this season by a score of 24-14.
That means UW needs to win both of its remaining two games and Boise State would have to lose both of its two remaining games for the Cowboys to win the Mountain Division.
In addition to hosting Fresno State Saturday, the Cowboys will travel to San Jose State on Saturday, Nov. 25. Boise State hosts Air Force this Saturday and will travel to Fresno State on the 25th.
Fresno State Needs to Win One of Two Final Games
Fresno State leads San Diego State, which is 4-2 in the MW, by one game.
Fresno State defeated SDSU, 27-3, in their head-to-head meeting earlier this year, thus the Bulldogs need to win one of its remaining two games against the Cowboys or Boise State to clinch the West Division.
UW and Fresno State Have Made Big Improvements
Wyoming and Fresno State share a unique distinction over the past two seasons. In 2016, Wyoming tied for the biggest turnaround in college football, improving its record by six wins over the previous season.
The Cowboys improved from 2-10 in 2015 to 8-6 in 2016. This year, Fresno State holds that honor, having improved its win total by six games, going from 1-11 in 2016 to 7-3 in 2017.
Cowboys Are Bowl Eligible
The Cowboys recorded their sixth win of the season in the 16-13 victory over Colorado State on Nov. 4. That made the Cowboys bowl eligible for the second straight season. UW added a seventh win at Air Force last Saturday by a score of 28-14.
On a national level, the Cowboys are No. 1 in the NCAA in three statistical categories this season. Wyoming is No. 1 in turnover margin (+1.70 per game), No. 1 in takeaways (27 total turnovers forced) and No. 1 in kickoff returns (29.06 yards per return).
UW and Fresno State Feature Two of Top Defenses
The Cowboys and Bulldogs feature two of the top defenses in the Mountain West and the nation this season. The two teams are ranked among the Top 5 MW teams in multiple defensive categories.
In scoring defense, Wyoming leads the conference and ranks No. 14 nationally, allowing opponents only 18.1 points per game. Fresno State is right behind the Cowboys, allowing opponents only 18.3 points per game to rank No. 2 in the MW and No. 15 in the country.
Bulldogs and Pokes No. 2 and 3 in Total Defense in MW
Wyoming opponents are averaging only 156.8 passing yards per game, ranking UW No. 2 in the league and No. 4 in the NCAA. Fresno State gives up 185.1 passing yards per game, ranking them No. 4 in the MW and No. 22 nationally.
In total defense, Wyoming is allowing opponents only 334.1 total yards per game, placing them No. 3 in the conference and No. 27 in the country. Fresno State is No. 2 in the MW and No. 12 nationally in total defense, allowing only 309.7 yards per game.
Both Teams Have Won Five Games Against Each Other
Wyoming’s series with Fresno State has seen each team win five times. The series between the Cowboys and Bulldogs didn’t begin until 1992, when Fresno State became a member of the Western Athletic Conference.
The Cowboys lost the first conference meeting in Fresno, Calif., as Wyoming head coach Joe Tiller faced his former college coach at Montana State and mentor Jim Sweeney, who was the head coach at Fresno State.
In 1993, the Pokes defeated the Bulldogs in Laramie on way to tying Fresno State and BYU for the ‘93 WAC title with identical 6-2 conference marks.
The two teams would end up splitting the six games played against one another as WAC members from 1992-97, with the home team winning each of the six games.
Series Renewed in 2009’s New Mexico Bowl Thriller
In 1998, the final year Wyoming was a WAC member, the two teams didn’t play and in 1999 the Pokes left to form the Mountain West Conference.
It wasn’t until 2009 that the series would be renewed, when Wyoming, from the Mountain West, faced Fresno State, from the WAC, in the New Mexico Bowl. That game was a thriller, with the Cowboys prevailing 35-28 in double overtime.
Fresno State Joins MW Conference in 2012
In 2012, Fresno State would join the Mountain West and the series began again. The Bulldogs won the first two MW matchups in 2012 and ‘13. Wyoming won the most recent meeting on the road at Fresno State in 2014.
Saturday’s Game Will Be Senior Day
This Saturday will be Senior Day for the Cowboys. This year’s senior class has been part of one of the biggest turnarounds in Wyoming Football history. The seniors will be recognized on the field in today’s opening introductions.
Tickets to Saturday’s game are available online at www.GoWyo.com/tickets, by calling the UW Athletics Ticket Office at 307-766-7220 or by stopping by the main ticket office on the west side of the Arena-Auditoriium.
On game day, tickets may be purchased on the east side of War Memorial Stadium.
Where to Watch and How to Listen to the Game
The Cowboy Sports Network will carry Saturday’s game on radio beginning with the pregame show at 11 am, M.T. The game will also be televised by AT&T SportsNet, formerly ROOT Sports Rocky Mountain.