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Missouri Tigers

WHEN: Saturday, Aug. 31, 5:30 p.m. MT

WHERE: War Memorial Stadium

TV: CBS Sports Network

CONFERENCE: Southeastern

COACH: Barry Odom (fourth season)

LAST SEASON: 8-5 (4-4 SEC); loss in Liberty Bowl

ALL-TIME AGAINST UW: 1-0

MOST RECENT: Missouri 40, Wyoming 13 (2018 at Missouri)

THE GOOD NEWS: Missouri no longer has Drew Lock, who finished as the program's second all-time leading passer by the time he ran out of eligibility. The Tigers are also losing sack leader Terez Hall off a defense that was one of the worst in the nation against the pass a season ago (262 passing yards allowed per game).

THE BAD NEWS: The Tigers are inserting perhaps the nation's most sought-after graduate transfer at quarterback in Kelly Bryant, who has loads of experience after going 16-2 as a starter at Clemson. Missouri also returns 1,000-yard rusher Larry Rountree, one of the nation's top tight ends (Albert Okwuegbunam), leading tackler Cale Garrett and most of its starters in the secondary.

THE GIST: With Bryant behind center, Missouri is a trendy pick to contend with Georgia and Florida in the SEC East this fall. The Tigers even got three votes to win the SEC title in the league's preseason poll. They've increased their win total each season under Odom, and their combination of speed and athleticism all over the field may be the best Wyoming sees all season.

Texas State Bobcats

WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 7, 5 p.m. MT

WHERE: Bobcat Stadium, San Marcos, Texas

TV: ESPN+

CONFERENCE: Sun Belt

COACH: Jake Spavital (first season)

LAST SEASON: 3-9 (1-7 Sun Belt)

ALL-TIME AGAINST UW: 1-2

MOST RECENT: Wyoming 45, Texas State 10 (2017 at Wyoming)

THE GOOD NEWS: Texas State has been one of college football's worst programs since making the move up to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2012, winning less than 33 percent of its games with one winning season during that span. After a fourth straight season of winning three games or less, the Bobcats made a change at the top and hired Spavital, who was West Virginia's offensive coordinator last season.

THE BAD NEWS: Texas State was actually strong defensively last season (53rd nationally in yards allowed, 39th in pass defense) and will have one of the most seasoned defenses in the country. The Bobcats return their top 10 tacklers from last season, including linebackers Nikolas Daniels and Bryan London II -- the Sun Belt's top two tacklers a season ago. Texas State also returns four of its top six receivers from last season.

THE GIST: Spavital, who's known best for tutoring Heisman winner Johnny Manziel during his time as the offensive coordinator at Texas A&M, is too good of an offensive mind not to improve Texas State on that side of the ball. But Wyoming is by far the more talented team. Simply put, this is a game the Cowboys have to win (and should win) if they're going to get back to a bowl this season.

Idaho Vandals

WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 14, 3 p.m. MT

WHERE: War Memorial Stadium

TV: TBA

CONFERENCE: Big Sky (FCS)

COACH: Paul Petrino (seventh season)

LAST SEASON: 4-7 (3-5 Big Sky)

ALL-TIME AGAINST UW: 1-6

MOST RECENT: Wyoming 42, Idaho 10 (2013 at Wyoming)

THE GOOD NEWS: Idaho doesn't have any kind of winning tradition, and moving back down to the Football Championship Subdivision last season didn't help. The Vandals had their second straight losing season and didn't beat an FBS team. The Vandals, who gave up 33 points per game, had one of the nation's worst defenses last season.

THE BAD NEWS: Despite the struggle in the win-loss columns, Petrino, the brother of former Louisville coach Bobby Petrino, has proven he can coach offense. The Vandals ranked sixth in the FCS in total offense last season and have Petrino's son, Mason Petrino, back to operate the offense given he wins the quarterback competition during fall camp. Idaho's top two receivers, Cutrell Haywood and Jeff Cotton, combined for 13 TD receptions last season.

THE GIST: Games against FCS opponents aren't exactly gimmes for Wyoming -- see last year's escape against Wofford -- but this is another one where the Cowboys have the clear edge in talent. Again, this game is a must for their postseason aspirations.

Tulsa Golden Hurricane

WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 21, time TBA

WHERE: H.A. Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, Oklahoma

TV: TBA

CONFERENCE: American

COACH: Philip Montgomery (fifth season)

LAST SEASON: 3-9 (2-6 AAC)

ALL-TIME AGAINST UW: 2-3

MOST RECENT: Tulsa 35, Wyoming 0 (1998 at Tulsa)

THE GOOD NEWS: Tulsa has fallen on hard times with five combined wins the last two seasons, and the Golden Hurricane aren't exactly entering a pivotal season for their program set at quarterback. Luke Skipper quit football after starting the first four games last season, leaving the competition between Seth Boomer and Baylor transfer Zach Smith. Tulsa didn't rank better than 90th nationally in yards, points or passing yards last season.

THE BAD NEWS: Tulsa should have one of the AAC's best 1-2 punches in Shamari Brooks (967 rushing yards) and Corey Taylor II (11 rushing TDs) to help take some of the pressure off its quarterback. Leading tacklers Cooper Edmiston and Zaven Collins are back at linebacker while the majority of the secondary returns for a defense that ranked eighth nationally against the pass last season.

THE GIST: This could be end up being Wyoming's toughest non-conference game other than Missouri given it's on the road, particularly if Tulsa has its quarterback situation figured out by this point. There will be pressure on Montgomery to turn things around this season given how things have gone the previous two years. The Cowboys will get Tulsa's best shot.

UNLV Rebels

WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 28, time TBA

WHERE: War Memorial Stadium

TV: ESPN Networks

CONFERENCE: Mountain West

COACH: Tony Sanchez (fifth season)

LAST SEASON: 4-8 (2-6 MW)

ALL-TIME AGAINST UW: 11-12

MOST RECENT: UNLV 69, Wyoming 66 (2016 at UNLV)

THE GOOD NEWS: UNLV comes back on Wyoming's schedule at a time when the Rebels are struggling to get things going under Sanchez, who's yet to get UNLV bowl eligible. The Rebels, who've only reached the .500 mark in league play once during Sanchez's tenure, no longer have 1,000-yard rusher Lexington Thomas, and the defense (37.3 points allowed per game) was one of the worst in the FBS last season.

THE BAD NEWS: UNLV is getting back one of its most dynamic playmakers in quarterback Armani Rogers, who missed most of last season with a toe injury. The Rebels were 2-2 after four games last season when Rogers went down, so who knows how the season might've played out for UNLV if he'd stayed healthy. The dual-threat signal caller was the MW Freshman of the Year in 2017.

THE GIST: It's not going to matter much what Rogers and the rest of UNLV's offense do if the defense can't at least be average this season. This conference opener continues Wyoming's favorable schedule in the first half of the season -- one the Cowboys should be favored in at home.

San Diego State Aztecs 

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 12, 8:30 p.m. MT

WHERE: SDCCU Stadium, San Diego

TV: CBS Sports Network

CONFERENCE: Mountain West

COACH: Rocky Long (ninth season)

LAST SEASON: 7-6 (4-4 MW); loss in Frisco Bowl

ALL-TIME AGAINST UW: 18-19

MOST RECENT: SDSU 27, Wyoming 24 (2016 MW Championship at Wyoming)

THE GOOD NEWS: After three straight double-digit win seasons, SDSU took a step back from what it's been accustomed to, turning in its lowest win total since 2014 last season. A quarterback change midway through the season had something to do with that, and now Ryan Agnew is preparing for his first full season as the Aztecs' signal caller. SDSU has to replace multiple starters on the offensive line and doesn't have any established playmakers out wide in an offense that averaged a league-low 20.6 points a season ago.

THE BAD NEWS: Long's teams are always going to be physical, and the running game should lead the way in that department with SDSU's most established offensive weapon in senior running back Juwan Washington (999 yards; 5 yards per carry). The defense shouldn't be too shabby either with all-league linebacker Kyahva Tezino (team-high 127 tackles) and all-league safety Tariq Thompson back to anchor what should be one of the top units in the MW.

THE GIST: SDSU has been nothing if not consistent under Long, who's gotten the Aztecs to a bowl each season at the helm. It's the sign of a program that doesn't beat itself, so Wyoming will have to earn it if it's going to return to Laramie with a win in what will be by far the Cowboys' stiffest road test at this point of the schedule.

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New Mexico Lobos

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 19, 2 p.m. MT

WHERE: War Memorial Stadium

TV: TBA

CONFERENCE: Mountain West

COACH: Bob Davie (eighth season)

LAST SEASON: 3-9 (1-7 MW)

ALL-TIME AGAINST UW: 34-37

MOST RECENT: Wyoming 31, New Mexico 3 (2018 at New Mexico)

THE GOOD NEWS: Only San Jose State is keeping UNM from currently being the worst program in the league. The Lobos have had back-to-back three-win seasons with just two winning seasons during Davie's tenure. There's a severe talent shortage up and down UNM's roster.

THE BAD NEWS: The Lobos return seven starters on an offense that was at least respectable last season (26.6 points per game). Tevaka Tuioti and Sheriron Jones, who are in a quarterback competition, both took snaps last year and are expected to take another step in their development. 

THE GIST: Wyoming has outscored UNM 73-6 the last two seasons, and the Lobos haven't done anything to suggest they're closing that gap. This will be the fifth in a span of six games for Wyoming against teams that had a losing record last season. Barring complete self-destruction on Wyoming's part, the Cowboys should win their third straight in the series rather easily.

Nevada Wolf Pack

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 26, noon MT

WHERE: War Memorial Stadium

TV: TBA

CONFERENCE: Mountain West

COACH: Jay Norvell (third season)

LAST SEASON: 8-5 (5-3 MW), win in Arizona Bowl

ALL-TIME AGAINST UW: 3-4

MOST RECENT: Wyoming 42, Nevada 34 (2016 at Nevada)

THE GOOD NEWS: This will be Nevada's first trip to Laramie since 2015, so few if any of the players on the Wolf Pack's roster have dealt with the elevation. Quarterback Ty Gangi, who threw for more than 3,000 yards last year, is no longer around. The Wolf Pack also lost four of their top six tacklers from last season as well as sack leader Malik Reed off the edge.

THE BAD NEWS: Nevada still has some experienced pieces back from an offense that ranked in the top 5 in the MW in points and yards last season, including MW Freshman of the Year Toa Taua (872 rushing yards) and fellow running back Devonte Lee, who had a team-high seven rushing TDs. The Wolf Pack also have a wild card vying to replace Gangi in former Florida State signee Malik Henry, who's not your average walk-on.

THE GIST: Nevada has some momentum under Norvell, who led the Wolf Pack to their highest win total since 2010 last season. And should Henry, a former top-50 recruit, win the quarterback job, Nevada could look a lot different by late October. But this game is at home for Wyoming, which has done a decent job protecting its home turf against league opponents recently (9-4 the last three years). Could that be the difference?

Boise State Broncos

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 9, time TBA

WHERE: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho

TV: ESPN Networks

CONFERENCE: Mountain West

COACH: Bryan Harsin (sixth season)

LAST SEASON: 10-3 (7-1 MW), bowl game canceled

ALL-TIME AGAINST UW: 12-1

MOST RECENT: Boise State 34, Wyoming 14 (2018 at Wyoming)

THE GOOD NEWS: It'll be a strange sight for every team Boise State plays this season, but Brett Rypien won't be taking snaps for the Broncos after becoming the MW's all-time leading passer in his four years behind center. Boise State also lost the league's leading rusher in Alexander Mattison and some of their top receivers. Oregon came in and swiped defensive coordinator Andy Avalos during the offseason.

THE BAD NEWS: Even with the questions at quarterback, there's still plenty of talent on the roster given the Broncos recruit at a higher level than anybody else in the league. Boise State returns all five starting offensive linemen, including all-league selection Ezra Cleveland, and MW Preseason Defensive Player of the Year Curtis Weaver, a disruptive edge rusher who could work his way into the first-round conversation for next year's NFL Draft with another strong season.

THE GIST: Boise State, the preseason pick to win another Mountain Division title, gets the benefit of the doubt until somebody knocks it off. The Broncos have played in the last two MW championship games and three of the last five. The trip to Boise starts a much tougher end to the schedule for Wyoming, which plays three of its last four games away from home.

Utah State Aggies

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 16, time TBA

WHERE: Maverik Stadium, Logan, Utah

TV: ESPN Networks

CONFERENCE: Mountain West

COACH: Gary Andersen (first season)

LAST SEASON: 11-2 (7-1 MW), win in New Mexico Bowl

ALL-TIME AGAINST UW: 39-26-4

MOST RECENT: Utah State 24, Wyoming 16 (2018 at Wyoming)

THE GOOD NEWS: Only Oklahoma averaged more points in the FBS than Utah State last season. Yet Wyoming, which had the ball with a chance to drive for a tying score in the final minutes, held the Aggies to 23 points less than their season average in a tightly contested game (Utah State scored one of its touchdowns on a kickoff return and another from inside the Cowboys' 5-yard line after an interception). If nothing else, it inspires confidence heading into this year's rematch on the road.

THE BAD NEWS: Junior quarterback Jordan Love returns as the triggerman after completing nearly 65 percent of his passes last season and is already getting buzz as the league's top draft prospect. Utah State's defense also has a handful of playmakers returning, including linebacker David Woodward, the league's leading tackler last season, and edge rusher Tipa Galeai, who led the league in sacks. And All-American Savon Scarver might be the most dangerous return man in the nation.

THE GIST: There might not be a tougher two-week stretch on the league schedule than what Wyoming is facing in early November. The Cowboys would happily take a split in these two games, and this particular series has been competitive as of late. Wyoming notched a 28-23 win the last time they traveled to Logan in 2017.

Colorado State Rams

WHEN: Friday, Nov. 22, 7:30 p.m. MT

WHERE: War Memorial Stadium

TV: ESPN2

CONFERENCE: Mountain West

COACH: Mike Bobo (fifth season)

LAST SEASON: 3-9 (2-6 MW)

ALL-TIME AGAINST UW: 58-47-5

MOST RECENT: Wyoming 34, Colorado State 21 (2018 at CSU)

THE GOOD NEWS: The bright spot for CSU last season was a passing game that ranked among the best in the MW, but the Rams' top two receivers, Preston Williams and Olabisi Johnson, are out of eligibility. CSU needed all the offensive production it could get with a defense that was repeatedly gashed on the ground (league-worst 219.5 rushing yards allowed per game). Wyoming has won three straight against its biggest rival.

THE BAD NEWS: CSU has an experienced quarterback in fourth-year junior Collin Hill, and regardless of what the Rams lose on the outside, they always seem to have a go-to receiver emerge (five straight seasons with a 1,000-yard receiver). Warren Jackson, at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, could be next in line. CSU also returns multiple starters in the secondary for a defense that allowed the fourth-fewest passing yards in the league last season.

THE GIST: The rivals will have the attention of a national television audience for their second straight Friday Border War. Could Wyoming still be in the Mountain Division race at this point of the season depending on what it does in its first seven games and in the two weeks leading up to this game? It would certainly add another layer of intrigue to the rivalry.

Air Force Falcons

WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 30, noon MT

WHERE: Falcon Stadium; Colorado Springs, Colorado

TV: TBA

CONFERENCE: Mountain West

COACH: Troy Calhoun (13th season)

LAST SEASON: 5-7 (3-5 MW)

ALL-TIME AGAINST UW: 28-26-3

MOST RECENT: Wyoming 35, Air Force 27 (2018 at Wyoming)

THE GOOD NEWS: Wyoming has had Air Force's number of late, winning three straight in the series. None of them was more dramatic than last season's furious comeback in which the Cowboys scored three touchdowns in the final 9 minutes to erase a 13-point deficit. Air Force will likely have their backfield situation figured out by this point of the season, but missing leading rusher Cole Fagan doesn't help the Falcons.

THE BAD NEWS: While it's been tweaked over the years, Air Force's option offense is still unique in college football and a headache to prepare for since so few teams do what the Falcons do. Air Force has an experienced quarterback at the controls in Donald Hammond III, and the Falcons' defense, led by a pair of all-league selections in defensive lineman Jordan Jackson and safety Jeremy Fejedelem, is no slouch either.

THE GIST: Given the contrast in difficulty (at least on paper) from the first half to the last half of Wyoming's schedule, the Cowboys could very well find themselves needing this game to lock up a bowl berth. Shut down Air Force's ground game and you really like your chances, though that's a lot easier said than done seeing how the Falcons routinely rank in the top 5 nationally in rushing (each of the last five seasons). A 28-14 road win in 2017 is Wyoming's largest margin of victory during its current series winning streak.

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Follow University of Wyoming athletics reporter Brandon Foster on Twitter @BFoster91

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College Sports Reporter

Davis Potter is the University of Wyoming athletics reporter. An Alabama native and 2011 Auburn University graduate, Potter joined the Star-Tribune in 2018 after five years covering Ole Miss and the Southeastern Conference. He lives in Laramie.

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