Potato Bowl Primer: Buffalo vs. San Diego State
By Joe Jenkins
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Primer: Buffalo vs. San Diego State
Don't look now, but the MAC appears to be closing the gap in terms of mid-major conference power. The MAC boasted seven bowl-eligible teams this year, the same as the Mountain West. The two conferences will square off twice this bowl season, including a solid matchup between Buffalo and San Diego State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, to see how close the MAC is to catching the gold standard of mid-major football.
Motivation: How about a bowl win? The Bulls don't have one since the school began playing football in 1894. In fact, they've only played in one before this year — in 2008 when UConn beat them in the International Bowl, 38-20. Getting off the old 119-year schneid? Yeah, I'd say that's motivation.
If You've Never Seen Them: This team has playmakers on both sides of the ball. Write this name down: Kalhil Mack. He could be the best linebacker in the country this year. You'll be hearing his name on Sundays next year. On offense, Brandon Oliver is a 5-foot-8, 207-pound wrecking ball with moves. When he's running downhill, defenders are left trying to tackle shoulder pads and kneecaps.
Weakness: After Buffalo's playmakers, the talent drop-off is pronounced. A few other players on the team are good, but the remainder of the squad is comprised role players at best. When Mack and Oliver go off, Buffalo wins big. Its average margin of victory this year: 25.7 points. When the two stars get bottled up? Bad news for Buffalo. Average margin of defeat: 26.0 points per game. It's feast or famine for UB.
San Diego State
Motivation: How about a bowl win? No, there's not an echo in here. This marks the fourth consecutive year that San Diego State has been to a bowl game. It marks a miraculous turnaround from an 0-3 start that included a loss to FCS school Eastern Illinois. That said, the last time the Aztecs won a bowl game, Brady Hoke was the coach. Rocky Long is itching to put one on the board.
If You've Never Seen Them: The Aztecs are plain balanced. They don't set the world on fire on offense, but they can move the ball competently through the air with quarterback Quinn Kaehler or on the ground with running back Adam Muema. On defense they're just as sturdy, but not spectacular. They're especially stout against the run, but overall the unit is good enough to keep them in games, as evidenced by their four overtime contests this season.
Weakness: Turnovers. The Aztecs average more than two giveaways per game (which is another reason all those close games stay close). What's worse is that they don't do a good job of making up for it on the other side of the ball. SDSU is ranked 108th in the country for average takeaways per game.
Las Vegas Hilton Line: San Diego State -1.