Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction

Bowl Season

Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction


Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Game Preview, How To Watch, Odds, Prediction

San Jose State, Eastern Michigan clash in Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

https://twitter.com/coachmosser & @MWCwire

Game 12: San Jose State Spartans (7-4, 5-3) vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles (8-4, 5-3)
What: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
When: Tuesday, December 20th – 1:30 MT, 12:30 PT
Where: Albertsons Stadium; Boise, ID
How To Watch: ESPN

Stream: FuboTV — get a free trial
Odds: San Jose State -3.5 Over/Under 54.5

It’s bowl season. For some, that means warm weather locations, beaches, sun – even in December – and trips to places rarely traveled. For San Jose State, it means a visit to the northernmost bowl game there is, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, and to a familiar setting – Boise, Idaho – where they travel routinely as a fellow member of the Mountain West Conference. That’s not to say the Spartans won’t be excited, it is a bowl game after all. Their opponent is a worthy one, Eastern Michigan of the MAC, and the two have plenty in common.

One of the first things to do when breaking down bowl games, is to assess motivation, or the ‘care’ factor. Do these teams want to be there? Are they disappointed that they were not selected for a different bowl in a different location? How invested are the players going to be on the voyage? Is it a business trip with some fun mixed in, or is it a holiday excursion that requires you to strap on the pads one night during the week-long getaway? Every bowl season is littered with examples of teams that don’t show up on game night, that’s why there are so many blowouts in games that are supposed to feature very evenly matched teams.

Luckily this game seems to have the attention of the staffs and rosters. You’re not seeing any ‘opt-outs’ that populate the second-tier bowls between Power 5 teams. Both head coaches and most of their assistants are staying put, despite some chatter about SJSU’s Brent Brennan being in the mix for the Stanford opening. There is a website that tracks each individual bowl and the players in those games that are either opting-out or transferring. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is the only game outside of the two College Football Playoff games that have zero players listed. You read that correctly, the only single one. So kudos to both programs, as they are clearly excited to be here and the fans should be treated to a hard-fought competitive game.

Let’s take a look at Eastern Michigan first. The Eagles shared the MAC-West title with Toledo, though didn’t play in the conference championship game as they lost the head-to-head tiebreaker. They come in having won four of their last five, three of them by one score. Their non-conference schedule leaves you shaking your head in curiosity. They won a pair of one score nail-biters at home against FCS Eastern Kentucky and UMass, arguably the worst FBS team in the country. Yet they went to Arizona State and defeated the PAC-12’s Sun Devils 30-21. To round it out, they squandered a 14-0 halftime lead, and got buried at Louisiana 49-21. The Spartans and Eagles do share a common opponent – Western Michigan. The Broncos traveled to San Jose all the way back at the end of September and got curb-stomped 34-6. They didn’t fare much better when they hosted EMU a few weeks later, falling 45-23.

As for where the Eagles strengths lie, it’s tough to decipher. From a statistical perspective, they land somewhere near the middle in most categories, which seems fitting. They are an average football team, not great, not poor, just smack dab in the middle. They average 28 ppg and allow 28 ppg, and most other stat lines are closely aligned as well. They do have a veteran 6th year QB in Taylor Powell, who has gotten reps at Missouri and Troy, before heading north to Ypsilanti (really just wanted to work Ypsilanti into the preview). He has been adequate, with a 14/7 TD to INT ratio. They also possess a 1,000 yard RB in workhouse Samson Evans. The senior averages nearly five yards a carry and has scored 13 touchdowns.

One thing the Eagles will do is capitalize on their drives. They rank third in red zone scores, only failing twice on 45 trips inside the 20 to put points on the board. While roughly one-third of the scores are field goals, they are still coming away with some points on those drives. The counter to that, is they do not have a ton of explosive plays on the season. The Spartans were susceptible to several big plays through the air during the back-half of the season. They should be able to prevent those on Tuesday. Something to keep an eye on with EMU is their proclivity to commit penalties – they have committed the third most in the entire country. Apparently this is not a massively damaging statistic, as both Alabama and Tennessee join the Eagles near the bottom of the same category, and in fact, the 8 most penalized teams are all playing in bowls. This probably speaks more to the fact that there are far too many bowls, and almost everyone qualifies for one. But that’s a conversation for another day. For this game, if Eastern Michigan is going to give up free yards at a high rate, it’s going to be difficult for them to win.

Turning to the other side of the ball, EMU has something in common with San Jose State. They each have a defensive lineman who was named Defensive POY in their respective conference. For the Spartans of course, it’s Junior Fehoko. As for the Eagles, DE Jose Ramirez was the first Eastern Michigan player in school history, on offense or defense, to be named MAC player of the year, and his statistics are impressive. He ranks second in the nation in both sacks, with 12, and tackles for loss per game (1.8). For good measure he forced two fumbles, and also is third on the team in tackles, an impressive feat for a defensive linemen. The unit’s numbers against both the run and pass are average, but they most definitely have not seen a quarterback as talented as Chevan Cordeiro all season.

San Jose State will look to end the season on a high note. A 4-1 start had the Spartans dreaming of a second MWC championship in three years. But a few uneven performances led to a 3-3 end to the season. One good thing about bowl games though, is that it almost becomes its own separate season. When SJSU takes the field Tuesday, it will be close to a month since their regular season finale versus Hawaii. If you’re on a roll to end your campaign, you obviously want to keep that momentum going. In this case, the break may do the Spartans a solid, and rejuvenate them for one last top-notch effort.

The offense, like it has all year, will go as Cordeiro goes, as they have never really been able to establish a consistent running game. An inexperienced offensive line struggled in the opener, but seemed to gel shortly thereafter. In hindsight that may have been due to feasting on a soft portion of the schedule. RB1 Kairee Robinson did score 10 TD’s, and is coming off his most productive outing of the season, rushing for 148 yards against the Rainbow Warriors.

Luckily Corderio has been on point since day one. The transfer from Hawaii has another season to play, and Spartans fans should be eagerly anticipating the encore to his outstanding 2022. He earned 2nd team all-conference, throwing for nearly 3,000 yards, with a tremendous 20 to 4 TD/INT ratio. He developed an instant rapport with Nevada transfer Elijah Cooks and the results were noticeable. Cooks will likely cross the 1,000 yard mark on Tuesday, and has scored 10 touchdowns. Keep in mind, all of these individual statistics were accumulated in only 11 games, instead of the normal 12, as the postponed New Mexico State game was never made up. Cordeiro has plenty of other targets as well, including Justin Lockhart and tight end Dominick Mazotti.

Tuesday will be one last time for the core group of defensive stalwarts that helped bring the Spartans the 2020 MWC Championship to represent SJSU. They include Fehoko, Cade Hall, Kyle Harmon, Alii Matau, Nehemiah Shelton and others. The numbers still show this unit ranking highly in most important categories, but they had a couple of rough nights in November against San Diego State and Utah State. They will want to go out on a positive note.

These two teams have actually met once before, in the 1987 California Bowl. Eastern Michigan pulled an upset in that one, winning 30-27. It remains the Eagles only bowl victory in program history. For Brennan, he has been vocal that the 2020 trip to the Arizona Bowl didn’t have the actual feel of a bowl game. Covid precautions prevented many of the normal highlights of a bowl trip, and to add insult to injury, a plethora of Spartans were unable to play because of Covid. Brennan, his staff, and his players want to make sure all parts of this experience are much different, right down to the final score.

As noted earlier, trying to predict this game in the middle of September is far different than trying to figure out what will happen after a month off at a neutral site in December. That being said, while there are never guarantees, it does seem like we will see an A-plus effort from San Jose State here. There are good vibes around the program now, with the coaching staff staying in place, recruiting going well, and the desire to send the seniors out with a win. The weather may play a small factor, as Tuesday afternoon in Boise calls for mid-30’s temps and a chance of an inch or two of snow. EMU is more accustomed to that, but SJSU got a taste of it in Logan, Utah a month ago in a back-and-forth affair. Ultimately, it says here the defense resorts to its early-season form, Cordeiro and company make enough plays, and the Spartans close 2022 with their first bowl win since 2015, in a game with fewer points than many expect.

Prediction: San Jose State 28 Eastern Michigan 16



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