It’s the first day of bowl season, and all through the spud state, people are flocking to the blue turf to see two teams with a date. Ohio (9-4) and Utah State (7-5) appear to be drifting in the wrong direction. Ohio, coming off a crushing 2nd half implosion during the MAC Championship game against Northern Illinois, was hoping for a better bowl game than in ice box Boise Idaho. Conversely, Utah State won its last 5 games just to become bowl eligible. Additionally, the Aggies haven’t been to a bowl game in 15 years and are less than 300 miles from Boise. Expect to see more blue and white in the stands than green.
Expect some scoring in this matchup if the pigskin thaws sufficiently. Ohio’s been averaging 31 ppg over the last 6, while USU has averaged 32 over their 5-game win streak. Both teams run the ball well and are nearly identical in total offense. Yet, Ohio is more balanced in their approach to the ‘pistol’, zone-ready offense. They’re averaging 250 throwing and 202 rushing per game, respectively. The Aggies are 6th nationally in rushing offense at 277 a game.
The Bobcats offensive motor is started by Donte Harden, who needs just 20 yards to hit 1000 for the season. Harden can do it all; he runs north/south, can make defenders miss in the open field, protects the pocket and is a viable receiver out of the backfield. It doesn’t stop there as he’s one of the nation’s best kick returners at 26.3. Leading the passing attack, Ohio is led by senior quarterback Tyler Tettleton, who broke 12 Bobcat single-season records this year and ranks 20th nationally with 26 touchdown passes.
Looking on the other side of the ball, Ohio’s defense is formidable against the pass. They’ve notched 15 interceptions on the season. Just one problem, Utah State doesn’t throw the ball that often. One key focus for the game is how will the Bobcat’s play the running game for the Aggies? Will they stack the box and leave continual 1 on 1 matchups on the edges, or play softer and covering the entire basis?
Utah State has been motoring lately. They could have been down on their luck saying ‘man, we could be 12-0 right now.’ They held 4th quarter leads in every single game this year, teams the likes of Auburn, BYU, Colorado St. and WAC champion Louisiana Tech, yet ended up 7-5. All 5 losses came by 25 total points. But they didn’t let those failures get them down and are riding RB Robert Turpin all the way to the The Potato Bowl. He averages 118 a game and is a load to bring down; you can ask the BYU secondary to confirm that. In all likelihood this will be Turpin’s last live showing for the scouts interested in him for the NFL.
The Aggies game manager, er QB, is Adam Kennedy. He replaced Chuckie Keeton week 6 after Keeton was forced out with a neck injury. The one bright spot is Kennedy actually throws better than Keeton, in my opinion. USU just doesn’t throw that much so we don’t see the arm he has. He’ll need to be on his game if Ohio loads the box.
What can we say about Utah State’s defense? They play hard and attack the football. But they need to play 60 minutes of football. They must stay focused the entire game, otherwise Ohio is more than capable of flashing points on a frozen scoreboard in a short span of time.
I fully expect this to go game to go back and forth. There will be a bevy of points to keep the juices of the fans, and the scoreboard warm. Welcome the bowl season!
Utah State- 41