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Idaho Potato Bowl 2013, Buffalo vs. San Diego State: Info, Predictions and More

Sean FryeFeatured ColumnistDecember 8, 2013

Idaho Potato Bowl 2013, Buffalo vs. San Diego State: Info, Predictions and More

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    Donald Miralle/Getty Images

    It may not be a BCS bowl game, but who doesn't love potatoes? 

    Well, hopefully San Diego State and Buffalo do, as the Aztecs and Bulls are set to face off in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. 

    The Bulls finished this season 8-4 overall with a 6-2 record in MAC play. They famously faced off in Week 1 against Ohio State and lost just 40-20. 

    As for the Aztecs, they had an undefeated Fresno State on the ropes on Oct. 26, before losing in overtime, 35-28. 

    Date: Dec. 21

    Time: 5:30 p.m. EST

    Place: Bronco Stadium, Boise, Idaho

    TV: ESPN

    Radio: ESPN Radio

San Diego State Keys to Victory

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    Air it out

    The Aztecs' best weapon is the aerial assault of quarterback Quinn Kaehler. San Diego State ranks 35th in the country in passing (262.3 YPG) and Kaehler is one of the best quarterbacks in the Mountain West. 

    As for Buffalo, they rank just 69th in pass defense in the FBS, giving up nearly 230 yards per game. 

    Against Fresno State earlier this season, Kaehler seemed to hang with Derek Carr, one of the nation's best passers, so it's clear that the Aztecs' strength is through the air. Against a weak secondary, there's no reason not to expose that. 

     

    Contain Branden Oliver

    The Bulls have one of the best running backs in all of college football in Branden Oliver. He's rushed for over 200 yards in two games this season and has 15 touchdowns on the ground. 

    But he's also been limited to under 100 yards four times, so Oliver can be inconsistent at times. 

    San Diego State gives up nearly 160 yards per game on the ground, certainly not a mark to be proud of. But that Fresno State game was a bright spot as they held the Bulldogs to just 43 rushing yards (granted, Fresno State is a pass-heavy offense). 

    At the end of the day, the Aztecs can't let Oliver run all over them and set the tone of the game. 

Buffalo Keys to Victory

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    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

    Let your best player, Branden Oliver, set the tone

    The Aztecs are terrible at stopping the run, so there's no reason not to give Oliver, who has over 1,400 rushing yards and two games of over 200 yards, at least 30 touches. 

    Oliver is one of the best running backs in college football, so Buffalo has to let him set the tone. Buffalo is undefeated in games where he gets at least 125 yards and just 1-4 when he doesn't reach that mark. 

     

    Force Quinn Kaehler to make mistakes

    Although Kaehler is a great gunslinger for the Aztecs, he's had his low moments this year. He's had two multi-interception games and four games where his touchdown-to-interception ratio was less than or equal to one. 

    Although Buffalo's pass defense is nothing to write home about, the Bulls lead the MAC with a plus-16 turnover margin. So if they can be opportunistic against a high-flying Aztec offense, then the Bulls will be in good shape. 

Players to Watch from San Diego State

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    QB Quinn Kaehler

    His numbers might not be the most gaudy in the country, but Kaehler has quietly been one of the more effective quarterbacks in college football. He ranks 38th in passing yards with 2,796 and also has 17 touchdowns. 

    He's also a great leader as one of the upperclassmen on this year's squad, which has won three of the four overtime games it's faced. 

    Against Derek Carr and Fresno State, Kaehler went toe-to-toe with one of the country's best gunslingers and actually out-passed Carr 337-298. 

     

    WR Ezell Ruffin

    Kaehler's top target this season has been wideout Ezell Ruffin. With 1,061 receiving yards, he's fourth in the MWC in receiving yards. 

    Ruffin has also hauled in 63 catches for three touchdowns. 

    A California native, the 6'1" junior is certainly someone worth keeping an eye on. 

     

Players to Watch from Buffalo

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    Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Spor

    RB Branden Oliver

    Almost nothing needs to be said about Branden Oliver this season. He's accumulated 1,421 yards and 15 touchdowns. His yardage ranks 12th in the nation and third in the MAC. 

    A hard-nosed back from Miami, Fla., his best game came in a 30-3 thumping of the Ohio Bobcats, a contest in which he racked up 249 yards and two touchdowns. 

    Oliver is a tone-setter for the Bulls. If he plays well, Buffalo generally does as well. They haven't lost a single game where he's gotten at least 125 yards. 

     

    WR Alex Neutz

    Whenever Buffalo is forced to go to the air, quarterback Joe Licata's first option is almost always senior Alex Neutz. 

    A 6'3" product of Grand Island, N.Y., Neutz leads the team with 58 receptions for 947 yards and 11 touchdowns. His touchdown reception mark ranks 13th nationally. 

    This game will be Neutz's last in a Bulls uniform, so catch him while you can. 

     

What They Are Saying

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    Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODA

    Buffalo WR Alex Neutz on playing the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, via his Twitter feed

    "Going to the Idaho potato bowl on December 21, one more game with these seniors and home for Christmas. I like it." 

    San Diego State Athletic Director Jim Sterk on getting a bowl invite after not being certain the Aztecs would go bowling, per the U-T San Diego

    “It was a huge relief, it was fun to call Rocky (Long) and say, ‘You’ve got another couple of weeks of work here,’” Sterk said Sunday. “It was a very long week because of all the uncertainty.”

    More from Sterk on going to Boise to play: 

    “Obviously the Boise community knows us, we stopped their (win) streak last year and beat them again this year. We’re going to play a good Buffalo team. It’ll be a tough battle, but great for our team.”

     

     

Prediction

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    Buffalo is having arguably its best season since 2008. They had a shot at a MAC East title, losing to eventual MAC champions Bowling Green in the final week of their regular season. 

    However, that won't be enough to upend San Diego State, which has enough offensive firepower to hang with some of the best offenses in the nation (i.e. Fresno State). 

    Buffalo's defense isn't all that impressive, and the Aztecs boast a pretty good passing attack and also have a 1,000-yard rusher in Adam Muema. 

    Expect the Aztecs to control the tempo of this game early and often and eventually pull away from the Bulls. 

    Predicted Final Score: San Diego State - 31, Buffalo - 20

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