The Edge

By and

Quarterback

Wyoming redshirt quarterback Karsten Sween took over for Jacob Doss last week and led the Cowboys to their first win since the season-opener against Utah State. Despite throwing two picks, Sween was extremely successful in his first career start, tossing a pair of touchdowns and completing 19-of-32 passes in the 14-10 win over New Mexico. Utah’s Brett Ratliff had a standout weekend of his own, rebounding from his and the offense’s struggles, coming up with probably his best performance of the year in a huge win over TCU.

Edge: Utah

Running Backs

In his sophomore season, Wynel Seldon has found it a little more difficult to find running room after his standout freshman campaign. While he is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry, he is still sixth in the MWC in rushing, one of two Wyoming backs to make the league’s top 10. The other is Devon Moore, who is averaging 7.1 yards per rush with 268 total yards. The Ute running game has taken a broader approach, relying on Ratliff and wide receiver Brent Casteel to help while the unit as a whole has been hurt by injuries to Mike Liti and Darrell Mack. Still, starter Darryl Poston is averaging 4.1 yards per carry.

Edge: Wyoming

Receivers

The Ute receivers may finally be back. After getting Brian Hernandez and Bradon Godfrey back in the lineup in the last two weeks, the corps is starting to look solid once again. Brent Casteel has proven to be a playmaker, Marquis Wilson has been relatively consistent and Hernandez, now healthy, seems poised for a breakout game. But the Wyoming receivers are no slouches, either. Michael Ford leads the conference in catches and has 381 receiving yards, leading a talented trio along with Tyler Holden and Hoost Marsh.

Edge: Utah

Offensive Line

The Utes’ O-line is the only front five in the nation that has not allowed a sack all season. All-conference candidate Tavo Tupola, who protects Ratliff’s blind side, has returned from a sprained knee and hasn’t missed a beat. Meanwhile, the Cowboys’ unit has been the antithesis of Utah’s: Wyoming’s bug uglies have given up 22 sacks in five games-which, for a team that has had some trouble sustaining drives and putting points on the board, certainly doesn’t help matters.

Edge: Utah

Defensive Line

Utah’s run defense, anchored by shoo-in all-MWC selection Kelly Talavou, had one hiccup against Boise State but rebounded with another standout showing against the TCU Horned Frogs, Aaron Brown’s absence notwithstanding. The Wyoming defense has been apt across the board, but its strength lies in the passing game. Opposing runners have been able to gain solid yardage here and there.

Edge: Utah

Linebackers

Both linebacking groups have athleticism to spare, and they’ve caused plenty of trouble for opposing offenses this season. Joe Jiannoni’s return to the Ute lineup has been a big help, and he has allowed the Ute defense to utilize the versatile talents of Stevenson Sylvester, Kyle Brady and Malakai Mokofisi. The Wyoming D uses a three-man front and four linebackers, and the Cowboys have plenty of depth that allows them to keep their starters fresh. Sophomore Ward Dobbs has 41 tackles-No. 10 in the MWC-to lead the Cowboys.

Edge: Even

Secondary

Going into the season, one of the Cowboys’ biggest concerns was a lack of experience in the defensive backfield. But those concerns have all but evaporated, as Wyoming boasts the No. 1 pass defense in the nation, holding opponents to 106 yards through the air per game. Utah has been solid as well, ranking third in the conference. Paced by Eric Weddle and his league-best six interceptions, the U secondary has been a major playmaking unit over the last few weeks.

Edge: Wyoming

Special Teams

Louie Sakoda is now a two-time MWC Special Teams Player of the Week, in large part due to his versatility, as he serves as both the Utes’ placekicker and punter. His 43.8-yard punt average is nearly identical to Wyoming’s Billy Vinnedge. However, Cowboy kicker Aric Goodman has missed five field goals this year, while Sakoda has misfired just once.

Edge: Utah

Coaching

Kyle Whittingham has certainly been true to his word: the Mountain West Conference title does seem to be first in the Utes’ minds, as they came through with one of their strongest performances of the last two years last week against TCU to remain unbeaten two games into conference play. Wyoming’s Joe Glenn found success two years ago, going 7-5 and leading the Cowboys to a Las Vegas Bowl title. The jury may still be out on both of them.

Edge: Even

Chris Bellamy