NCAA Football: Ball State Cardinals vs. Wyoming Cowboys Preview, Prediction & Odds -- Sept. 18, 2021

by Big Al Staff

Game time: 4 p.m. ET, Sept. 18, 2021
Venue: Jonah Field at War Memorial Stadium, Laramie, WY
Where to watch: N/A

Opening Odds at USA Sportsbooks


DraftKings: Wyoming -7; O/U 54; Wyoming -280, Ball State +225
BetMGM: Wyoming -7; O/U 53; Wyoming -278, Ball State +220
Caesars: Wyoming -7; O/U 54; Wyoming -280, Ball State +230

Season record
Ball State: 1-1
Wyoming: 2-0

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Ball State - Wyoming preview and analysis


Recent form
Ball State: lost 44-13 at No. 11 Penn State on Sept. 11
Wyoming: won 50-43 at Northern Illinois on Sept. 11

The ghost of Josh Allen could’ve been had with the Wyoming Cowboys last week.

Leading 42-16 at one point, Wyoming allowed 27 unanswered points to trail 43-42 against Northern Illinois before rallying for one more score and winning 50-42.

Not a slight at NIU since they’ve been a mid-tier power for so long, but that was a blown opportunity to cover against a solid program. Wyoming will get another crack at a MAC program when the Cowboys welcome the Ball State Cardinals to Laramie on Saturday.

This is the first-ever meeting between the programs, but this isn’t a lackluster Ball State club coming to Wyoming. The Cardinals returned 20 starters from a year ago when they won the MAC title a year ago. But they’re also coming off a 44-13 loss to the 11th-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions that ended their eight-game winning streak.

That’s why seeing the Cowboys laying seven points is confusing. It’s not like Wyoming is the leaders in the Mountain West clubhouse. But no doubt Ball State presents Wyoming’s toughest non-conference challenge to date. Both games have been decided by one score, including a three-point home win against  Montana State in Week 1.

What helps Wyoming is that altitude that has impacted many college football games. And if there’s one way Wyoming can slow down Ball State quarterback Drew Plitt and make life tough on that Cardinals offense, it’s playing at over 7,000 feet in elevation.

The Cowboys’ running game, led by Xazavian Valladay, easily takes the load off quarterback Sean Chambers. But Chambers has been pedestrian at best, throwing three touchdowns and one interception thus far. In both games, he’s completed less than 60 percent of his passes.

Ball State has one player that Wyoming can’t match; wide receiver Justin Hall. On only 14 receptions through two games, Hall has a team-high 172 yards and both of Plitt’s touchdown passes. If he gets loose, Wyoming’s secondary will have a rough day regardless of the elevation.

Prediction


Conventional wisdom says Wyoming should do enough to win this game, and the ‘Boys are favored based on the home-field advantage alone. But Wyoming has yet to be tested to this point, and will need a solid all-around game on both sides in order to win. Offense is too inconsistent, and it seems like the perfect play for the underdogs to pull of the upset. Ball State wins by 4

Betting trends


Wyoming is 10-5 against the spread as a home favorite in its last 15 games.

Ball State is 9-3 against the spread in its last 12, and is 22-6 in its last 28 ATS in its last 28 when a road dog of 7 or less.

Players to watch


Ball State: Look for the Cardinals to get tail back Carson Steele more involved this week. Steele, a freshman was held to 18 yards and a touchdown on seven carries against Penn State. The week prior, Steele also had seven carries, but 79 yards and a touchdown.

Wyoming: If it comes down to defense, linebacker Chad Muma is one you have to watch for Wyoming. He leads the Cowboys with 21 tackles, 16 of them in the solo variety, one sack and one interception. An early candidate for Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year.

Statistical leaders


Ball State:
Passing: Drew Pitt -- 364 yards, 2 TD, 2 INT
Rushing: Will Jones -- 109 yards, 1 TD
Receiving: Justin Hall -- 172 yards, 2 TD
Defense: Jaylin Thomas -- 16 tackles

Wyoming:
Passing: Sean Chambers -- 400 yards, 3 TD, 1 INT
Rushing: Xazavian Valladay -- 178 yards, 2 TD
Receiving: Ayden Eberhardt -- 120 yards; Isaiah Neyor -- 119 yards, 2 TD
Defense: Chad Muma -- 21 tackles, 1 sack; Victor Jones -- 1.5 sacks 

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All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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