By all accounts, when the University of Wyoming takes the football field against the No. 4-ranked Texas Longhorns on Saturday they Cowboys will be way overmatched.
If you like to wager on games, Las Vegas oddsmakers have UW as 28.5-point underdogs on the road at Darrell K. Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.
It’s the type of game that’s common to start out the major college football season as top programs schedule lesser-known or smaller schools to fill out their nonconference schedules. In the case of UW and Texas, both are established NCAA programs, but nobody is giving the Cowboys much of a shot.
It’s the type of game that sparks what’s become an annual question this time of year: Why would these programs set themselves up to be blown out?
To a large degree, they get paid for it.
Not Selling A Loss
That’s not chump change by any stretch of the imagination, and UW athletics — not just the football program — can do a lot with that money.
While the schedule was set a years ago and nobody could’ve known Texas would be so highly ranked today, UW head coach Craig Bohl and UW Athletics Director Tom Burman told Tucker they didn’t agree to the game just to get pummeled for a payout.
"If we're playing a game like this, the first thing we need to be able to do is say, ‘OK, do I have the confidence to be able to walk into a pregame meal and say, “Guys, if we play well we have a chance to win?”’” Bohl told Tucker. "We cannot take a football team and say, 'OK, we got no chance. We're just going out and playing a game for say, like, a guarantee.’”
What’s In It For The Big Programs?
Most top football programs don’t want those bye weeks, or holes in their early schedules where they’re not playing. The solution is a nonconference game, where the visiting team shares in the revenue.
Usually, UW doesn’t play many of these bye-week filler games. Texas is an outlier, said Matt Whisenant, deputy athletic director for UW.
“What we try to do from a scheduling philosophy is, in an ideal world, we’re scheduling a home and home with (top) opponents,” he told Cowboy State Daily. “We try to stay away from what a lot of schools call traditional bye games, but Texas is one.”
He also echoed Bohl and Tucker that the Cowboys always want to be competitive, but sometimes that can be difficult when schedules are made well in advance, sometimes a decade or more.
What Goes Around Comes Around
The NCAA football nonconference schedule this year features other games that are much more of a mismatch than UW-Texas.
Take the Cowboys’ opponent last week, Portland State University, which has earned its program about $1 million in the first two weeks by playing way up in competition.
Before last week’s 31-17 loss to UW in Laramie in a game the Cowboys probably should’ve won by at least a couple more touchdowns, Portland State was thrashed by perennial Power 5 powerhouse Oregon 81-7.
Then there’s the outlier in Appalachian State University, which has made a name for itself by beating larger programs on the road during the nonconference weeks. The Mountaineers will play UW next week in Laramie.
Last year, App State not only got a $1.5 million payday for playing at No. 6-ranked Texas A&M, the Mountaineers upset the Aggies 17-14.