By Dave Walsh, columnist
Game Week is pretty much over.
It’s now Zero Week!
I know, I’m trying to get this new term that is being tossed about. OK. Zero Week it is. Whatever moniker you want to put on it, it’s a great thing!
College Football begins the 2022 season now. On Saturday, the 27th of August, the great game, the very popular sport nationwide, College Football, leads the way and gives its participants, their coaches, and yes, their fans, just what they have been yearning for. The wait and anticipation for all concerned and involved, is over.
And isn’t it great that the Wyoming Cowboys will be taking part in Zero Week!
I’m one of those who is always interested in the start any football season, I’ve always been “in” on the start of College Football, no matter who’s getting it going. But this year, the Cowboys are part of the opening day line-up, and that means I’m “all in”.
The Cowboys are one of just 22 FBS teams that will get their seasons, and the College Football season, underway. The Wyoming-Illinois match-up is one of 11 Zero Week games to be played across America. And Wyoming is one of five Mountain West Conference teams involved. So there’s plenty of curiosity to go around here.
This particular start to the football season still seems a lot more interesting because of the Cowboys. And the fact they are involved in Zero Week. The August start to a Cowboy Football season isn’t so unusual. The Pokes have begun their season in the month of August 12 times in the last 30 seasons, since their first-ever August game in 1991. But this season’s August start is the third in the last 5 years. And the Cowboys, historically, have done very well in August. Wyoming has won their last three, and five of their last six games played in August. The Pokes are 6-4 overall in August.
So, this will be 11th time the Cowboys have started in August.
But what about Zero Week? What about being one of the select few that is first in the nation to play? How many times has Cowboy Football been here?
Just a few seasons ago, to start the 2018 season, the Cowboys travelled to Las Cruces, New Mexico, to play New Mexico State. The Pokes and Aggies opened their seasons on August 25th, and for the first time the Cowboys played Zero Week. The Cowboys blasted New Mexico State that Zero Week, 29-7.
That victory at New Mexico State happens to be the last time the Cowboys opened their season, on the road, with a victory. That opening-season, road win, was the first since 1967 for Cowboy Football, when the Pokes beat Arizona in Tucson. The Cowboys had lost their last 12 season–openers, away from Laramie.
So, here we have the Wyoming Cowboys and their season opener. Made even more interesting that their opener is part of Zero Week. Heck, that’s enough right there to peak the interest of this Cowboy Football fan.
Oh, but there’s more!
The Cowboys will open their season, and Zero Week, on the road. And, they will be playing a team from The Big Ten Conference!
Yes, that Big Ten. The Illinois Fighting Illini lay in wait. That team, from that big-time, big-name conference, will host the Cowboys. And it is true that Wyoming has struggled against teams from that big-time, big-name conference over the years. Wyoming is 1-19 versus the Big Ten! The Cowboys are 0-8 against Nebraska, their most common Big 10 opponent. The Pokes are 0-3 versus Iowa, and 0-3 against Michigan State. Iowa was Wyoming’s last Big Ten opponent in the 2017 season-opener, in Iowa City.
Ironically, the only Wyoming victory over a Big Ten team, came on the road, in Madison, Wisconsin. It was the fourth game of the 1986 season, Dennis Erickson’s only season as Head Coach of the Cowboys. And the Pokes went into Big Ten country, and beat a Big Ten team, 21-12.
So here it is! It’s finally here! Cowboy Football is back!
Cowboy Football is back, on the road, Zero Week, against Illinois.
And Wyoming will be the underdog. Illinois is favored, by double digits by some.
So, what else is new? That’s expected, especially in this scenario.
I think the Cowboys are comfortable with all that. The Pokes seem to take a little extra motivation into games like this. There is a little extra intensity displayed in games like this.
So let’s not be too surprised by the outcome in this one. I think the Cowboys will play well, and have a shot to win in Champaign!