Two teams coming off strong seasons in their respective conferences meet on Friday in the Arizona Bowl as Ohio and Wyoming square off for the first time since 2008 and for just the third time in history. Both programs are among the steadiest in the Group of Five ranks and will be looking to cap bounce-back years with a postseason victory.
Ohio rebounded from a loss in its MAC opener to win seven straight games and reach the league title game, where the Bobcats fell 17-7 to Toledo. But after a 3-9 season in 2021, the program’s 9-4 record entering the Arizona Bowl marks a great turnaround under second-year coach Tim Albin, the MAC Coach of the Year. The last time Ohio won 10 games in a season was 2011, but that will change with a win against Wyoming.
The Cowboys enter with a 7-5 mark under ninth-year coach Craig Bohl after finishing 7-6 last season. But when it comes to Mountain West play, this year’s squad proved far better as Wyoming finished 5-3 in the league after a 2-6 mark in 2021. A win would mark the Cowboys’ third bowl win of the last four seasons and get the program to eight victories for the fourth time in Bohl’s tenure.
How to watch Arizona Bowl live
Date: Friday, Dec. 30 | Time: 4:30 p.m. ET
Location: Arizona Stadium — Tucson, Arizona
Live stream: Barstool Sports
Ohio vs. Wyoming: Need to know
Ohio without Rourke: Ohio quarterback Kurtis Rourke was lost for the season due to a knee injury during the team’s win at Ball State on Nov. 15. Rourke, the MAC Player of the Year, ranks No. 6 nationally in passing efficiency with a mark of 167.7. He is above players like Oregon’s Bo Nix and TCU’s Max Duggan in passing efficency and narrowly trails Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams of USC. The redshirt junior threw for 25 touchdowns and just four interceptions before the injury. Without him, the Bobcats aren’t quite the same. Backup CJ Harris completed 17 of 31 passes for 163 yards and an interception in the MAC Championship Game.
Wyoming needs to throw: Ohio’s most-glaring weakness is its pass defense. The Bobcats rank last among FBS teams by allowing 293.7 yards passing per game. While they held their two most-recent opponents below 200 yards passing, others have found plenty of success through the air against Ohio. However, passing the football is not Wyoming’s strength. The Cowboys rank 125th nationally in passing offense, averaging just 127.8 yards per game through the air. The Cowboys rely heavily on the run game but may want to try throwing it some in order to exploit Ohio’s biggest weakness.
Cowboys have good history: Wyoming leads the all-time series with Ohio 2-0. The Cowboys won 34-33 at Ohio in 2007 and 21-20 at home against the Bobcats in 2008. Wyoming also has a positive history in the Arizona Bowl, having defeated Georgia State 38-17 in the 2019 edition of the game. Ohio has never played in the Arizona Bowl, but the Bobcats have won their last three bowl games.
Arizona Bowl prediction, picks
Featured Game | Wyoming Cowboys vs. Ohio Bobcats
Ohio’s resume and statistical profile are better than Wyoming’s. But without Rourke, the Bobcats are not as strong. Wyoming boasts a 1,000-yard rusher in Titus Swen, and the Cowboys will be motivated to flush the taste of a 30-0 loss to Fresno State in the regular-season finale. The program has won its last three bowls under Bohl, and should be well-prepared to handle an Ohio team missing its star. Prediction: Wyoming +1.5
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