Idaho Potato Bowl Breakdown: Toledo vs. Utah State

Publish date:

Toledo (9-3) vs. Utah State (10-2)Dec. 15, 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)


? Reason to watch: Utah State was two missed field goals away from potentially busting the BCS, while Toledo lost three games this year by seven points each. Two great seasons -- and two promising programs -- are rewarded with a trip to Boise in December. College football can be cruel. Also, the WAC champion Aggies have the nation's 15th-ranked defense, while Rockets boast a top-30 offense and a plus-seven turnover margin. The latter number is especially important; Toledo has the 108th-ranked total defense in the FBS.

This game also offers a chance to watch two bright young coaches, Gary Andersen and Matt Campbell, showcase their talents on a national stage. Utah State's Andersen had to resist overtures from programs such as Cal, Colorado and Kentucky to coach this bowl game and oversee his team's coming transition to the Mountain West. Toledo's Campbell led the Rockets to nine wins in his first season as an FBS head coach.

? Keep an eye on: Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton and running back Kerwynn Williams, and the men protecting them, first-team All-WAC linemen Tyler Larsen and Eric Schultz. Larsen and Schultz effectively limited projected first-round defensive tackle Star Lotulelei during a meeting with Utah on Sept. 7, so handling a pedestrian Toledo pass rush -- the Rockets recorded 24 sacks, tied for 63rd nationally -- should pose little trouble.

"They're really balanced on offense," Campbell told reporters. "Keeton does a great job. He's extremely athletic and has the ability to beat you running the football, but also has the innate ability to throw the ball all over the field. He's one of the premier quarterbacks across the country."

Keeton and Williams have complemented each other all season, and Keeton has emerged as a true dual threat under center. After failing to score a rushing touchdown in the first six games of the year, he exploded for seven rushing scores in his last six contests, including two in an overtime win at Louisiana Tech. In the Toledo backfield, keep an eye on running back David Fluellen. He averaged 132.7 rushing yards per game, eighth in the FBS.

? Did you know: voted the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl the third-best bowl game for "swag." All players receive a gift package that includes a North Face jacket, Kombi gloves, a Tiger Woods Victory beanie, an Ogio Bullioin backpack and, according to Utah State defensive back Will Davis, "a room full of electronics where someone tells you to choose what you like."

? Final analysis: This game will fly, and the result will largely depend on Utah State's ability to limit Fluellen -- who rushed for more than 200 yards on three separate occasions in 2012 -- and protect the football. Keeton has limited turnovers in big games all season, and if he does it again, the Aggies could capture their first bowl victory since 1993.

? The pick: Utah State 41, Toledo 28 \n