Alex Nieves
Sunday December 20th, 2015

Utah State (6–6) vs. Akron (7–5)

Dec. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)

Reason to watch

Both teams will bring a top-20 defense to the table when they meet up in Boise for the fifth annual Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Akron defense, led by Mid Atlantic Conference defensive player of the year Jatavis Brown, has been an absolute menace to opposing run games this season, holding teams to an average of 89.9 rushing yards per game. Meanwhile, Utah State’s defense comes into the game ranked 20th in total yards per game allowed and is anchored by junior linebacker Nick Vigil. Vigil has been a tackling machine in 2015, racking up 140 total tackles, good for second most in the country. 

Keep an eye on: Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton

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The fifth-year year quarterback has struggled with injuries since his breakout season as a sophomore and 2015 was no different, as a sprained MCL limited him to just six regular season games. Despite those injuries, Keeton has played in 40 games for the Aggies during his college career, passing for 7,279 yards, rushing for 1,416 yards and scoring 77 total touchdowns.

Utah State will need Keeton’s experience orchestrating the passing game to overcome the Zips’ run defense. The Aggies will have their hands full with Brown, who has lived in the opponents’ backfield this season and recorded 17.5 tackles for loss, good for 15th in the FBS.

Did you know…?

Akron will finish with just its seventh winning record since moving to the FBS in 1987. More importantly, the Zips have the opportunity to walk away with the first bowl victory in the history of their program. Akron has only made one previous trip to a postseason bowl, losing to Memphis 38–31 in the 2005 Motor City Bowl.

Utah State will be playing in its fourth Famous Idaho Potato bowl over the last six seasons and is looking to win a bowl game for the fifth-consecutive season. Before appearing in the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, a 24–23 loss to Ohio, the Aggies had not made an appearance in a bowl game since 1997. Utah State has a 4–6 record all time in bowl games.   

Final Analysis

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The game should be an even matchup between two teams that have relied on their defenses for success and struggled to find consistency on offense. The Aggies should be eager to end Keeton’s career on a high note and continue their trend of success in postseason play.

However, Akron comes into the game with a ton of momentum, riding a four-game winning streak, including a shutout victory over rival Kent State in the final week of the regular season. Brown and the Zips defense, which has given up at least 30 points only twice this season, should continue their strong play, while quarterback Thomas Woodson and running back Conor Hundley should make enough plays to give Akron its first bowl win.

The pick: Akron 27, Utah State 21

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