Bowl prediction record: 4-3 SU, 2-5 ATS, 4-3 O/U
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Akron (7-5) vs. Utah State (6-6), Boise, 3:30 p.m., ESPN
Utah State – 6.5 – O/U 47
Honestly, this is the sort of bowl game that makes me wish there were a lot fewer bowl games. Akron is a team that won seven games against losing teams, and whose losses were mostly ugly. Utah State is a team that limped into the bowls with a 6-6 record in a second-tier conference, albeit with three wins over bowl teams. This is also the bowl that will be played on the blue field, so if you happen to tune in, don’t worry about the color on your TV. It is indeed a very blue field that is very hard on the eyes. For Akron, this is only the second bowl appearance in the school’s history, the only other one being a loss in the 2005 Motor City Bowl. Their best bet for the school’s first bowl victory is a defensive slugfest. The Zips rank third in the country in rushing defense and 17th in total defense. LB Jatavis Brown is the MAC Defensive Player of the Year and wreaked havoc with 108 tackles (17.5 for a loss) and 10.5 sacks. He and the Zips defense will need to keep Utah State below 20; Akron scored 20 or fewer points seven times this year, including all five losses. QB Thomas Woodson is a fairly inaccurate thrower (53 pct. completions) with good legs (553 yards, 3 TDs). The strength of the Zips’ offense is running-by-committee, led by Conor Hundley (883 yards, 10 TDs). Lucky for them that the Utah State has a fairly average rushing defense (153 ypg). The heart of the defense is a stout linebacking corps led by Kyler Fackrell and Nick Vigil. The Aggies also have a strong passing defense that ranks 17th in the nation. Injury-plagued QB Chuckie Keaton will lead an average Utah State offense attack that yields just 370 yards per game. Keaton is a threat on the ground and through the air, but is sometimes erratic on his throws. This one figures to be low scoring and a bit boring. Prediction: Utah State 23, Akron 20.
Boca Raton Bowl
Temple (10-3) vs. Toledo (9-2), Boca Raton, 7 p.m., ESPN
Temple – 2.5 – O/U 49
Both of these teams flirted with potential greatness and dates in major bowls before faltering and ending up in South Florida for this early bowl game. Temple made it to 7-0 before falling to Notre Dame by four points. Toledo was also 7-0 before losing a five-point decision to Northern Illinois. Temple has a fairly weak offense (369 yards per game) and so will need to win on defense. LB Tyler Matakevich anchors a strong unit that ranks 18th in the country in total defense. The Owls are star-studded on the defensive side, and will also get help slowing Toledo from DT Matt Ioannidis, DE Nate D. Smith and S Alex Wells. When Temple does move the ball, they’ll largely do it on the legs of RB Jahad Thomas (1,257 yards, 17 TDs) Toledo also likes to run the ball, but relies more on a committee of RBs Kareem Hunt and Terry Swanson (combined 1.768 yards, 17 TDs). QB Phillip Ely will try to loosen things up through the air, but he’s prone to the occasional interception. Toledo won a big game early against Arkansas, but played its weakest football after that in its biggest games. Temple has also faltered on a bigger stage, but looks to be a little stronger on defense and overall talent. This one should be close. Prediction: Temple 24, Toledo 20.