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Boise State

John Hightower

Boise State has a true freshman quarterback in Hank Bachmeier, and Wyoming defensive coordinator Jake Dickert figures to mix up his calls and give the youngster all kinds of looks. But if Bachmeier is able to solve the Cowboys’ defense and has time to throw, Hightower is one of his favorite targets. And for good reason. The speedy 6-foot-2, 175-pound wideout has been difficult for defenses to contain. He’s averaging a whopping 18.8 yards per catch and is fifth in the MW at 73 receiving yards per game. He’ll be yet another test for a Wyoming defense that’s given up chunks of yardage through the air all season.

Curtis Weaver

Weaver was named the preseason MW Defensive Player of the Year, and Boise State’s junior defensive end has lived up to the hype. Weaver became the league’s all-time sacks leader earlier this season and hasn’t slowed down much off the edge, leading the MW in sacks (10.5) and tackles for loss (12.5). With a quarterback who isn’t as mobile as it’s used to having behind center, running the ball effectively to set up the play-action pass will be imperative for Wyoming. In order to do that, the Cowboys will have to keep a disruptor like Weaver, who could be playing his way into the first round of next year’s NFL Draft, from constantly living in their backfield.

Wyoming

Tyler Vander Waal

It’ll be Vander Waal at the controls of Wyoming’s offense the rest of the way with Sean Chambers out with a left knee injury. This isn’t exactly new territory for Vander Waal, who’s got nine starts under his belt after beginning last season as the starter. The strong-armed Vander Waal brings a vastly different skill set to the position than the fleet-footed Chambers, and the production has been equally as different. Vander Waal completed just 48.5 percent of his passes last season and, while it’s a much smaller sample size, has completed just 25 percent of his 16 passes this season. The Cowboys will need Vander Waal to raise his level of play against Boise and the rest of their November schedule.

Keyon Blankenbaker

You could pick Tyler Hall, Azizi Hearn or really any of Wyoming’s defensive back here, but we’ll go with Keyon Blankenbaker, who’s quietly been one of Wyoming’s top cover guys on the back end. Wyoming’s first-year nickel back is fourth on the team with 36 tackles and leads the Cowboys with nine pass breakups. Blankenbaker and the rest of Wyoming’s defense, which is allowing the second-most passing yards in the league (288.8), figures to get tested plenty by a Boise State offense that’s producing the fourth-most passing yards in the league (291). Blankenbaker could draw any number of matchups in the slot.

This article originally ran on trib.com.

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