The Wyoming Cowboys will face off against the BYU Cougars in the Poinsettia Bowl. The game is scheduled for Wednesday, December 21st. Kickoff is set for 9:00 EST at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. Oddsmakers have the Cougars as a 8.5-point favorite with the total at 56.5 points.

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Poinsettia Bowl Vegas Betting Preview: Wyoming vs BYU

The Cowboys (8-5) were one of the biggest surprises in the country this year. Picked by most to finish last in the MWC Mountain division, Wyoming went 6-2 in conference play. Good enough for a T-1st in the division and spot in the MWC Championship Game (won tie breaker). They would go on to lose 24-27 to San Diego Stat in the title game, but nothing to be ashamed of. Quite a remarkable turnaround for a team that went just 2-10 last year. Wyoming will be playing in their first bowl game since 2011.

The Cougars (8-4) posted the best record of the four Independent programs. Getting to 8 wins was quite an accomplishment for BYU, as they opened the season just 1-3. At the same time, Cougars’ fans have to be thinking of what could have been. BYU’s four losses came by a combined 8-points. All against good teams in Utah, UCLA, West Virginia and Boise State. Not bad for a program that was in the 1st year under head coach Kalani Sitake. While it’s the first bowl appearance under Sitake, it’s the Cougars 12th straight overall.

Poinsettia Bowl Free Pick & Spread Predictions: BYU -8.5

It’s hard to not root for Wyoming given their improbable run in 2016, but this is about making money. I believe laying the big number with the Cougars gives us the best chance of profiting in this one.

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While I’m sure Wyoming is excited about getting to a bowl game, this is unfamiliar territory. I also think it’s a tough spot for the Cowboys. They put everything they had into the MWC title game and to lose by just 3-points will be tough to bounce back from.

You could argue that BYU isn’t going to be excited about playing a team like Wyoming. I’m not buying that for a second. While the Cougars have been to 12 straight bowl games, they haven’t won one since 2012. That means most of the players on this roster have only tasted defeat in their bowl experiences.

The last two bowl losses haven’t sit well. Two years ago they lost 48-55 to Memphis in double-overtime at the Miami Beach Bowl. Last year they lost 28-35 to rival Utah in the Las Vegas Bowl. A game in which they fell behind 35-0 on some fluke plays in the 1st quarter. I expect this team to show up in a big way here. Not only can they end their bowl losing streak, they can give head coach Sitake his first bowl win as a coach.

Not only do I think BYU has the motivational edge, but I think they have the advantage on the field. The Cougars will be without starting QB Taysom Hill. However, backup Tanner Mangum is more than capable of leading the offense. Especially, given he has an elite running back to hand it off to. Jamaal Williams has rushed for 1,165 yards and 11 scores. He’s already become BYU’s all-time leading rusher. I look for him to be extremely motivated to end his career on a high note.

He shouldn’t have much trouble doing just that. Wyoming’s defense is one of the worst in the country. The Cowboys ranked 88th against the run (202.7 ypg) and 106th against the pass (261.3 ypg). They were also 105th in points allowed, giving up 34.8 ppg.

On the flip side of the ball, BYU’s defense is built to slow down this Wyoming offense. The Cowboys are a team that wants to run the football, as they averaged 208.5 ypg. That plays right into the strength of the Cougars defense. BYU ranked 8th in the country against the run, allowing just 108.4 ypg.

So while the Cowboys figure to have a hard time stopping BYU’s offense, the Cougars should get plenty of stops. I believe that will be enough for BYU to win here by double-digits.