It's Wyoming in the snow this week for the Horned Frogs. In many ways, this is the game Fort Worthians have feared would happen ever since TCU joined the Mountain West. It already happened once-- in Colorado Springs against Air Force in 2009. It's on deck again-- frigid, windy, snowy, and consequential. TCU and Wyoming are two of the three unbeatens left in the conference. While it's certain both teams will leave the field chilled to the bone, only one of them will still be tied with Boise for the top spot in the MWC.
Cowboy Altitude: Carta-Samuels was not happy last year and there wasn't a good chemistry with his teammates. While he was fun to watch at times he wasn't the most effective quarterback. Smith is much more poised in the pocket and has a quicker release. Obviously one year doesn't make a career but Smith certainly seems to be enjoying himself and is having a great start to his career.
FoW: Did you (or anybody else) see Ghaali Muhammed having this good of a year, prior to... to him having this good of a year?
Ghaali returned kickoffs last year even though he played linebacker. In high school he was a running back so it was certainly a smooth transition for him to make. I liked the idea of Muhammad moving to running back because it added some depth and some much needed size. The running game first started with all three running backs getting equal carries but now it is mainly Alexander and Muhammad. Brandon Miller get a few carries still but watch for him to also line up as a slot receiver.
FoW: Who're the starting five on the line?
Nick Carlson is the starting center and plays ever snap. John Hutchins is set at left tackle. The other three spots are rotated. Tyler Strong and Zach Rushing share left guard and Clayton Kirven and Josh Leonard rotate at right tackle. Brandon Self plays right guard but missed last game due to injury. He is probable this week and would still share snaps with Kyle Magnuson regardless.
FoW: Is Wyoming still using a 4-3, and if so, who're the starting 4?
The two defensive ends are seniors Gabe Knapton and Josh Biezuns. Knapton is the one with massive beard that I'm sure they will mention during the game several times. Mike Purcell and Ben Durbin are both the tackles. The defensive line is not huge but at least this year we have some depth. Mark Willis and Sonny Puletasi are backups at defensive. Meanwhile Kurt Taufa'asua and BJ Sumter provide depth at tackle.
FoW: Where were Mazi Ogbonna, Chris McNeill, and Robert Herron last season?
All three were on the team last year. Herron was actually a backup running back behind Alvester Alexander but with his size and speed he is a much better fit at receiver. Ogbonna was a junior last year and transferred from Snow College, he had 18 catches for 183 yards. McNeill was the top returning receiver on the team and has gotten better as the year has gone by.
FoW: Was Dave Christensen going to be fired if Wyoming had a repeat of 2010?
Not at all. He still has several years left on his contract and I had no doubt that he would be the coach in 2012 regardless of what the record was this year. The bowl game in the first year may have raised expectations too high for 2010 where the team also had to replace their entire starting defensive line.
FoW: What changed on the team between last season and this season?
Obviously the quarterback has changed but the bigger difference is offensive coordinator Gregg Brandon who really is a guru of the spread. He brings so much more experience to the program and has implemented multiple looks. The offensive line is also playing it's best since Christensen took over. He finally has athletes are recruited for his system and it is paying off.
FoW: Which wins for WYO this season has been most important for the team, for the coach, and for the future?
The upset of San Diego State was certainly the biggest of the year so far. To go on the road as a 17 point underdog and beat a conference foe really helps the confidence of this young team. That greatly improved the chances of a bowl bid and getting a couple extra wins as well. None of the previous four victories were over quality opponents so this helps build Christensen's resume.
FoW: What's the weather going to be like on Saturday?
Right now the forecast is predicted to be a high of 29 with a 70% of snow showers. This could be a similar environment to the 2009 game when he hosted New Mexico and they had to plow the field before they could play. The cold combined with the elevation could be a big advantage for Wyoming.
FoW: What does Wyoming have to do to beat TCU?
Wyoming needs to win the turnover battle like it did against San Diego State. Then capitalize on any mistakes by the Horned Frogs. A balanced offensive attack will be needed to keep the defense guessing.
FoW: What does TCU have to do to beat Wyoming?
Bring their parkas and forget about the game about Boise next week. If the Horned Frogs pound the ball with the ground game it could certainly spell trouble for the Wyoming defense.
Here's Wyoming's promo video for the game.