The second bowl game to be played on the opening day of this bowl season will be the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, featuring the Ohio Bobcats from the Mid-American Conference and the Utah State Aggies of the Western Athletic Conference.
The game will be played on Saturday, Dec. 17 at 5:30 p.m. ET at Bronco Stadium in Boise, Idaho. The game will be televised on ESPN.
Record: 9-4 (6-2 MAC)
Biggest win: vs. Temple, 35-31, Nov. 2
Worst loss: at Buffalo, 37-38, Oct. 8
The Ohio Bobcats won the MAC East Division but lost in the MAC Championship Game to Northern Illinois. The Bobcats were generally successful in play in the Mid-American Conference, but did suffer bad losses to Buffalo and Ball State.
Record: 7-5 (5-2 WAC)
Biggest win: vs. Wyoming, 63-19, Oct. 8
Worst loss: vs. Colorado State, 34-35 (OT), Sept. 24
In their season opener, the Aggies nearly pulled off an improbable upset of the defending national champion Auburn Tigers, but fell just short, 42-38. After that valiant effort, the Aggies suffered more heartbreak in a bad overtime loss to Colorado State two weeks later.
That said, the Aggies did embarrass Wyoming, which will be playing in a bowl game just before the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Utah State also comes into this game on a five-game winning streak.
The Utah State Aggies are one of the nation’s prolific rushing offenses, ranking sixth nationally, but conversely, their passing offense is very weak, ranking 95th out of the FBS’ 120 teams. The Aggies also have a suspect defense, which ranks 73rd in scoring defense.
Utah State RB Robert Turbin, Junior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 5, 6
After missing the entire 2010 season due to a torn ACL, Robert Turbin has bounced back to be one of the nation’s most productive running backs in 2011. With exactly 118 yards per game this season, Turbin ranks 10th nationally in rushing yards per game and is the main reason why the Utah State rushing offense ranks sixth in the entire FBS.
Turbin has also ran for 19 touchdowns this season. A big back who can really run between the tackles, Turbin and will look to do a number on the Ohio defense in this game. Turbin is considering declaring for the 2012 NFL Draft, so this could be his final collegiate game. He will look to put on a big performance in front of NFL scouts.
Ohio WR LaVon Brazill, Senior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 7, Undrafted
Led by sophomore quarterback Tyler Tettleton, the Ohio Bobcats’ passing offense has improved considerably this season. A large part of that success is due to the playmaking abilities of senior wide receiver LaVon Brazill.
Brazill is a quick, dynamic wide receiver who leads the Bobcats with 64 receptions for 1,042 yards. Brazill has also caught 10 of Tettleton’s touchdown passes this season. Utah State does not have a great secondary, and Brazill will look to expose that.
Ohio MLB Noah Keller, Senior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 7, Undrafted
Experienced middle linebacker Noah Keller is the leader of the Ohio Bobcats defense. Unfortunately, Keller has battled injuries throughout his career, but when he is healthy, he is a very good tackler. Keller leads the Bobcats with 105 tackles, but he must have a big performance for the Bobcats to slow down Turbin in this game.
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams: Ohio 2, Utah State 2
Losses vs. non-bowl-eligible teams: Ohio 1, Utah State 2
Utah State’s rushing offense: sixth in nation, 277.5 yards per game
Ohio’s rushing defense: 29th in nation, 126.1 yards per game
Ohio’s total offense: 25th in nation, 453.1 yards per game
Utah State’s total defense: 50th in nation, 368.0 yards per game
The best player on the field in this game will be Utah State running back Robert Turbin, but overall, the Ohio Bobcats have a much more balanced team.
Ohio quarterback Tyler Tettleton and wide receivers LaVon Brazill and Riley Dunlop make a good passing offense, coupled with a solid running back in senior Donte Harden. Meanwhile, the Aggies have a great rushing offense, but very little passing threat.
Realizing the Aggies’ one-dimensional offense, the Bobcats defense should be able to stack the box to keep Turbin in check and come away with a victory in this contest.
Final Score Prediction: Ohio 27, Utah State 17