Utah State Aggies (7-5 SU, 6-6 ATS) vs. Ohio Bobcats (9-4 SU, 6-7 ATS), 5:30 p.m. EST, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, Saturday, December 17, 2011, Broncos Stadium, Boise, Idaho, TV: ESPN
by Badger, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: USU -2.5/OU +2.5
Over/Under Total: 57.5
This years version of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl played on the infamous blue carpet Smurf Turf of Broncos Stadium in Boise will have a runner-up vibe to it, when the Utah State Aggies take on the Ohio Bobcats this Saturday to kickoff Bowl Week on ESPN.
Utah State, who was one of the runners-up in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC) this season at 7-5, won their last five games of the season just to become bowl eligible for an invite to Boise. This will be the first bowl birth for the Aggies since the 1997 season, and a great shot in the arm for the Aggies program under third-year coach Gary Anderson.
But with 14 days off since their season finale over New Mexico State, the Aggies are hoping the long layoff doesnt cause them to lose the momentum they built up over the final two months of the regular season. With just a five-hour drive from Logan, Utah, to Boise, the Aggies should have a large crowd advantage in their favor to help them regain their late-season mojo.
Ohio lost a heartbreaker to Northern Illinois in the Mid-American Conference (MAC) Championship game their last time out, 23-20, when the Huskies drilled a field goal as time expired to take the MAC title. A second-half collapse, including giving up a 13-point fourth quarter lead, cost the Bobcats a shot at the title and the coveted 10-win plateau that most programs strive to reach.
The title-game loss snapped the Bobcats five-game win streak and took some of the shine off their nine-win season, but they still have plenty of motivation to win the Idaho Potato Bowl. Not only would a win get the Bobcats their first 10-win campaign since 1968, but it would also help them snap their 0-6 record in bowl games and 0-8 record in postseason games in the schools long football history.
With two teams from opposite ends of the country meeting on the gridiron for just the second time in each schools history, the oddsmakers set the opening point spread for the Potato Bowl with Utah State as 3-point favorites. The opening number seems to be nearly spot on, with just a few sportsbooks dropping the number by the hook to Aggies minus -2.5 currently on the board.
The over/under total opened at 58 at it too has held firm for the most part, with just a few sportsbooks dropping the total by the hook to list the current total at 57.5.
Offensively this game will feature plenty of running.
Utah State has a great running back in junior Robert Turbin (1,426 yards, 23 TD), and the Aggies use him to his full potential in pounding the rock since the Aggies ended the season ranked 6th in the country with 280 yards rushing per game.
But the key to the Aggies offense, and their late-season run to the bowl game for that matter, has been sparked by quarterback Adam Kennedy. Kennedy, a junior-college transfer who lost the starting job in the summer to freshman Chuckie Keeton, took over for Keeton when he injured his back in the Hawaii game in early November. The Aggies havent lost since, as Kennedy has shown the perfect combo of running skills (4.7 per carry) with better passing skills (70.7 %, 10 TD, 4 INT) to give the Aggies more balance.
But Ohio also has a solid quarterback of their own in Tyler Tettleton, who has thrown for over 3,000 yards and 35 combined touchdowns (26 passing, 9 rushing) in leading a very balance Bobcat offense (250 ypg passing, 205 ypg rushing). Tettleton will have redemption on his mind too, since his season-high three-interception game in the MAC title game cost his offense in the second half collapse.
It also helps that Tettleton has some effective weapons of his own helping him out on the Bobcats offense, as running back Donte Harden (939 yards) will likely go over 1,000 yards on the season in the Idaho Potato Bowl and senior receiver LaVon Brazill (1,063 yards, 11 TD) will end his career as the Bobcats best wide receiver in school history.
Defense is where this game could turn, and if it does it might turn in favor of the Bobcats.
Ohio allows almost a whole touchdown less per game than the Aggies do (Ohio 22.1 ppg Utah St. 28.2 ppg), and that mark was attained in the MAC, which has become famous for 120-point, 1,000-yard games with little to no defense.
However, both teams are strong against the run (Ohio 126 ypg allowed 30th; Utah St. 130 ypg 35th), so something will have to give. Both teams are led by strong linebackers too, as Ohios Noah Keller and Utah States Bobby Wagner are every-down players that make plays from sideline to sideline.
The only time these two schools have played each other (in 1994), a baseball game broke out as the Aggies won a snoozer with a shutout, 5-0. Yes 5-0. With two teams that both average over 30 points per game on offense, Id eat my shoes if they dont score more than five points on Saturday.
Neither team was particularly good to bettors this season, with both teams losing you the juice if you took them all season long. But there are a few interesting betting trends to note for this game.
Utah State is 9-2 ATS in their last 11 non-conference games, but they are not comfortable playing as the favorite since they are just 2-6 ATS this season when listed as the favorite and 0-5 ATS in the last five attempts.
Meanwhile, Ohio is 9-3 ATS the last 12 times they closed as the underdog, including a 4-1 ATS mark when they are considered a small dog (0.5 to 3 points).
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I must admit I have not seen Utah State play at all this season, so Im not sure how comfortable I am picking a side in this game. I think Ohio has better balance, and a better defense, but that doesnt always mean wins. I do think both offenses will score though, despite the two-week layoff. Im taking the over of 57.5.
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