Idaho is concluding its next-to-last season as an FBS program before dropping levels with a matchup against Colorado State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 22 in Boise, Idaho. The Vandals qualified for a bowl game for only third time in 21 seasons in the FBS by winning six of their last seven games. The Rams have been torrid down the stretch, winning four of their last five contests – including a 63-point eruption in a triumph over Mountain West champion San Diego State.
The Vandals were dismissed from the Sun Belt effective after next season and are electing to drop down to the FCS level in hopes of enjoying more success and losing less money. Not much was expected from this Idaho squad when it lost consecutive games against Washington and Washington State in September by a combined 115-20 score, but coach Paul Petrino guided the team to a strong turnaround and is relishing the bowl appearance. “That’s one reason I’m so proud of our players,” Petrino said during a press conference. “They’ve been kicked out of a conference and told they were going to change divisions. They never worried about that. They worried about playing one game at a time.”
The Rams are playing in a bowl for the fourth consecutive season, the second-longest streak in school history behind a string of five under Sonny Lubick from 1999-2003. Colorado State averaged an impressive 47.4 points and 520.6 yards over its final five games, with the four victories during the stretch coming by an average of 26.5 points. “Our football team has consistently improved throughout this season by the way they have worked and learned to compete, and I believe we are playing our best football late in the season,” Rams coach Mike Bobo told reporters. “We are appreciative of this invitation to play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and I’m excited for this football team to have one more chance to play together, to keep improving and finish the season on a high note.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: The lined opened with CSU as 13.5-point favorites and over the past week that line briefly dropped to 13 before jumping up 15.5 by Thursday morning. The total opened at 64 and had risen one full point to 65. View the complete line history here.
WHAT SHARPS SAY: “Two surprise teams meet in the Potato Bowl, Colorado State who rallied to win 4 of its final five games, and Idaho who captured 8 wins after winning a total of 7 games combined the previous four seasons. More important, each team is riding a red-hot spread win streak with each team 7-0 ATS over their final seven games. Should be an entertaining battle of streaking squads.” – Covers Expert Marc Lawrence
WEATHER REPORT: The forecast for Albertsons Stadium in Boise Idaho for Thursday night is calling for mostly cloudy skies with temperatures in the mid-teens at kickoff. There will also be slight winds from the east.
Idaho – DB Dorian Clark (questionable, shoulder), DB Jordan Grabski (questionable, undisclosed)
Colorado State – DL Josh Lovingood (probable, knee), LB Kiel Robinson (questionable, ankle), RB Marvin Kinsey (out for season, knee)
ABOUT IDAHO (8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS, 6-6 O/U): Junior quarterback Matt Linehan, who is the son of Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, has passed for 2,803 yards and 15 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Aaron Duckworth (615 yards, four touchdowns) and Isaiah Saunders (584, six) share the rushing workload while senior tight ends Trent Cowan (46 receptions, 532 yards, six touchdowns) and Deon Watson (36, 555, two) are Linehan’s top targets. The defense held three of its last four opponents to 14 or fewer points and is led by middle linebacker Tony Lashley (team-best 99 tackles), defensive end Aikeem Coleman (team-leading eight sacks) and senior cornerback Jayshawn Jordan (team-high five interceptions).
ABOUT COLORADO STATE (7-5 SU, 10-2 ATS, 6-6 O/U): Things appeared bleak when standout freshman quarterback Collin Hill (1,096 yards, eight touchdowns) was lost to a torn ACL in his left knee in October, but former starter Nick Stevens was up to the task of saving the Rams’ season. The junior tossed 14 touchdowns against just one interception over the final six games and standout receiver Michael Gallup (70 catches, 1,164 yards) recorded eight of his 11 receiving scores after Stevens regained the job. The defense is led by senior weak-side linebacker Kevin Davis, who posted a team-leading 101 tackles, with middle linebacker Josh Watson (80 tackles) and free safety Braylin Scott (team-high three interceptions) also enjoying solid campaigns.
* Vandals are 7-0 ATS in their last 7 games overall.
* Rams are 6-0 ATS in their last 6 games following a straight up win.
* Rams are 0-3-1 ATS in their last 4 neutral site games.
* Under is 5-0 in Rams last 5 neutral site games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: The Covers public is backing Colorado State with 59 percent of wagers coming in for the Rams. The Over is grabbing 57 percent of the totals action. View full consensus date here.