Game played at Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho
Akron Zips vs. Utah State Aggies (-6.5, 47.5)
FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL STORYLINES
1. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Dec. 22 in Boise, Idaho may not have the desired warm weather location of most bowl games, but that doesn’t matter to either Akron or Utah State. Both teams are just happy to be going bowling but for different reasons. This is just the second bowl appearance ever for the Zips since becoming an FBS program in 1987 while the Aggies will be making a school-record fifth straight bowl appearance despite scuffling down the stretch.
2. Akron, which won its final four games to finish in a tie for second in the MAC East Division, lost to Memphis, 38-31, in its only previous bowl game, the 2005 Motor City Bowl. The Zips have steadily improved under fourth-year head coach Terry Bowden, going 1-11 in his first season and then 5-7 in back-to-back years before finishing 7-5 this year. “The thing that’s beginning to hit us now it’s time for us to go out and win a bowl — not play a bowl, but win a bowl,” Bowden told the Akron Beacon Journal.
3. Utah State looked like it might be headed to a more prestigious bowl game back in mid-October when it forced eight turnovers and stunned then No. 21-ranked Boise State, 52-26, to take over the Mountain Division lead in the Mountain West Conference. But the Aggies lost four of their final six games, including back-to-back road games at New Mexico (14-13) and Air Force (35-28), and ended up in a four-way tie for second place at 5-3 in the division behind the Falcons (6-2). This is the third time in five years that Utah State will play in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, which is just a four-hour drive from campus in Logan, Utah.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened Utah State -7 but that has moved to -6.5. The total is down to 47.5 from the opening 49.
Akron – RB D.J. Jones (Questionable, undisclosed).
Utah State – QB Kent Myers (Probable, shoulder), NT Travis Seefeldt (Out indefinitely, undisclosed).
WEATHER FORECAST: A small 20 percent chance of snow with temperatures in Boise in the mid-30s and wind blowing across the field at around six miles per hour.
ABOUT AKRON (7-5 SU, 7-5 ATS, 5-7 O/U): Senior running back Conor Hundley is the team’s leading rusher with 883 yards and 10 touchdowns on 188 carries while sophomore quarterback Thomas Woodson has completed 53 percent of his passes for 2,034 yards,16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. Senior wide receiver Imani Davis (46 receptions, 593 yards, 3 TDs) is the top receiver for the Zips, who run a spread offense. Akron’s defense, which ranks third nationally in rushing defense (89.8 yards per game) and 17th in total defense (328.5), is led by senior linebacker Jatavis Brown, who was named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year after leading the team with 108 tackles, including 17.5 for loss, and 10.5 sacks.
ABOUT UTAH STATE (6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS, 9-3 O/U): The Aggies have arguably the two best linebackers in the Mountain West in 6-5, 250-pound senior Kyler Fackrell, who led the nation in fumble recoveries (five) and is considered an NFL prospect, and junior Nick Vigil, who ranks fifth in the nation in tackles (11.7 per game) and is only the player in the nation to have at least nine tackles in every game. Both Fackrell and Vigil were first team all-Mountain West picks while senior wide receiver Hunter Sharp, who had 60 receptions for 746 yards and eight touchdowns, was a second team choice. Sophomore quarterback Kent Myers passed for 1,470 yards, 14 touchdowns and three interceptions and also rushed for 348 yards and three touchdowns, which ranked second on the team behind junior running back Devante Mays’ 842 yards rushing.
* Zips are 4-0 ATS in their last four games overall.
* Aggies are 0-4 ATS in their last four games overall.
* Under is 4-1 in Zips last five non-conference games.
* Under is 4-0 in Aggies last four neutral site games.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Sixty-six percent of Covers users are backing the Aggies.
Marmot Boca Raton Bowl
Game played at FAU Football Stadium, Boca Raton, Florida
Toledo Rockets vs. Temple Owls (-2.5, 49.5)
MARMOT BOCA RATON BOWL STORYLINES
1. Temple and Toledo had seasons that, more or less, mirrored each other, setting up an intriguing matchup at the Marmot Boca Raton Bowl on Dec. 22 in Boca Raton, Fla. The Owls and Rockets each won their first seven games before stumbling a couple of times late in the year, capped by a defeat in their last game by each squad. Still, the strong campaigns created significant opportunities for the head coaches with Toledo’s Matt Campbell bolting to take over Iowa State and Temple’s Matt Rhule signing a six-year extension amid rumors that he could head elsewhere.
2. For much of the season, the Owls appeared destined for a New Year’s Six bowl game, although there is still plenty on the line for Rhule’s team. Temple was 2-10 two seasons ago and improved to 6-6 last year only to get left out of the postseason. “Hopefully our legacy will be that we can win 11 games,” center Kyle Friend told reporters. “That has never been done before here.”
3. The Rockets are seeking their first 10-win season since 2001, but must do it in former offensive coordinator Jason Candle’s first game as head coach. “I have a chance to be the head football coach at a place that I love, and to be around the team that I love and the guys that I fought with and bled with for seven years here,” said Candle, who likely would have been named offensive coordinator at Iowa State as part of Campbell’s staff. “It’s a no-brainer. It’s an easy decision.” Candle already is familiar with Temple, which was in the Mid-American Conference (along with Toledo) from 2007-11.
TV: 7 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE HISTORY: Books opened this game as a Pick, but Temple is now -2.5. The total is down to 49.5 from the opening 51.
Toledo – LB Jaylen Coleman (Out for season, leg), QB Jalen Reese (Out for season, Achilles), TE Adam Kulon (Out for season, knee).
Temple – DL Jullian Taylor (Out indefinitely, undisclosed), DL Josian Bronson (Out for season, ankle).
WEATHER FORECAST: There is a 36 percent chance of rain with temperatures in the mid-70s and wind blowing across the field at around 10 miles per hour.
ABOUT TOLEDO (9-2 SU, 8-2-1 ATS, 3-8 O/U): The Rockets are one of the nation’s more balanced teams, ranking in the top 35 nationally in points (34.7) and points against (21.1) with a strong rushing attack that averages 213.2 yards per game – tops in the MAC. “Both teams pay attention to running the ball,” Candle told reporters of his squad and the Owls. “To win and play well in November and December, you’ve got to be able to run the ball and stop the run, and I think both teams do a good job of that.” Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson both have a chance to reach 1,000 rushing yards on the season with a big performance in Boca, while Phillip Ely (2,680 yards and 21 touchdown passes) hopes to maintain a solid run in which he has thrown five touchdowns and one interception over the last three outings.
ABOUT TEMPLE (10-3 SU, 9-4 ATS, 5-8 O/U): The Owls, who ended the regular season ranked No. 24 in both the coaches’ poll and the College Football Playoff rankings, went 3-3 over their final six games – a run that included a close defeat to Notre Dame, a 21-point loss at USF and a disappointing 24-13 setback at Houston in the AAC title game. Robby Anderson was hardly to blame for the loss to Houston as he racked up season highs of 12 catches for 150 yards and recorded the team’s only touchdown. Overall, though, Temple’s best player is linebacker Tyler Matakevich, who said after winning the Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation’s top defensive player: “I’m not the biggest, I’m the not fastest, but I push myself to prepare off the field, so when I step on the field, I can do things faster than other people. I can narrow down what plays teams might run just by the formations. I think that is a tribute to the coaches’ putting me in the right situations.”
* Rockets are 3-0-1 ATS in their last four non-conference games.
* Under is 4-0 in Owls last four non-conference games.
* Owls are 1-4 ATS in their last five vs. MAC.
* Under is 6-0 in Owls last six games following a ATS loss.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Sixty-five percent of Covers users are backing the Owls.