San Diego St., Wyoming Battle for Mountain West

San Diego State (-6.5, 61 O/U) at Wyoming

No one from San Diego ever wants to visit Laramie, Wyoming, in December. The San Diego St. Aztecs (9-3 SU, 6-5-1 ATS) will be no exception when they face the Wyoming Cowboys (8-4 SU, 7-5 ATS) in the Mountain West Championship Game tomorrow (Dec. 3 at 7:45 Eastern).

Many preseason publications picked San Diego State to win the conference and projected it to be a top-15 team nationally. An undefeated regular season was thought to be possible because of the Aztecs’ soft schedule.

On the other hand, Wyoming was expected to be near the bottom of the league. The Cowboys won just two games last season and improving to .500 looked like the best case scenario.

Two weeks ago, Wyoming stunned SDSU, 34-33, at War Memorial Stadium in Laramie. A failed two-point conversion on the game’s final play ended the Aztecs’ perfect conference record and destroyed their dreams of sneaking into a major bowl game. The loss clearly devastated team morale as the Aztecs returned home to get clobbered (63-31) by a mediocre Colorado State team in the regular-season finale.

The kids from San Diego now return to the field where their season was derailed. An argument can certainly be made to support the SDSU side; it’s a revenge spot and the Aztecs have the more talented roster. Rocky Long is an excellent head coach and the conference championship is on the line; he’ll do everything in his power to rally his troops.

However, it’s going to be incredibly difficult. This time around the Aztecs will have to battle the confident Cowboys and the harsh elements. Temperatures should sink into the teens by halftime and winds will be gusting up to 25 mph. Many of the Aztecs have never played in such conditions. Every breath will sting their lungs and every bit of contact will numb their bones. Laramie isn’t where this group had planned to be on this day. They wanted to be in San Diego, putting the finishing touches on one of the greatest seasons in program history. It’s going to be tough to maintain their focus, to say the least.

In theory, the high winds should benefit San Diego State. Wyoming has a balanced offensive attack and needs to use the passing game to keep the Aztecs’ defense honest. Cowboys QB Josh Allen threw for 282 yards in the Nov. 19 contest. If the signal-caller can’t throw the ball downfield, the Aztecs can focus on the running game and stifle the Cowboys’ offense. Meanwhile, running the ball has been the key to SDSU’s offensive success all season. The team is grinding out 275 yards per game (seventh nationally) and Donnel Pumphrey is second amongst FBS running backs with 1908 yards.

Even if the Aztecs show a desire to play this game, they’ll have a tough time battling the elements and beating the Cowboys by a touchdown or more. Wyoming is 6-0 at home this season (5-1 ATS) including wins over Boise State, Air Force, and SDSU.

Five consecutive SDSU games have gone over the posted total while seven of the last eight Wyoming games have exceeded the number. The O/U (61) is probably a tad inflated considering recent offensive over-performance and the likelihood of more running plays than average.

Pick: Wyoming (+6.5)

Photo credit: Mountain West Conference (Extracted from PDF: mwcnotes.pdf) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons.

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