Utah State vs. Akron Prediction, Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Preview

    Utah State vs. Akron prediction and 2015 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl preview. Find out who's picked to win between the Aggies and Zips.

    December 14, 2015


    The beauty in some bowls is a little less obvious than it is in others. Akron (7-5) and Utah State (6-6) are two defensive-minded teams with several flaws, but they’re relatively even and just good enough to potentially make this a wildly entertaining Tuesday afternoon. Check out the Utah State vs. Akron prediction and Famous Idaho Potato Bowl game preview.


    Utah State vs. Akron Game Preview

    Broadcast

    Date: Tuesday, December 22

    Game Time: 3:30 pm ET
    Network: ESPN
    Venue: Bronco Stadium, Boise, ID
    Follow and/or Contact @PeteFiutak  

    Why You Need To Care

    Bowl games tend to become a really big deal when you don’t go to them.

    This is just the second bowl appearance in the history of Akron football – losing 38-31 to Memphis in the 2005 Motor City after stunning Northern Illinois for the MAC championship.

    It’s been a rough fight for head coach Terry Bowden, who’s been trying to resurrect his career after doing a wonderful job at North Alabama for three years, and now 16 years removed from his time at Auburn. He took a dead Akron program and got it close to bowl eligibility over the last two years, and then this season he finally put it together in his fourth season.

    His Zips were struggling along in what looked like another losing season, but then the easy part of the schedule kicked in and the defense turned it up. A 3-5 start turned around with a four game winning streak to ensure the first winning season in ten years. Now it’s time to make it a truly special year with the first eight-win campaign since moving up to the D-I/FBS level.

    Utah State has become a regular in the bowl world with this its fifth straight appearance, winning the last three. This wasn’t the season the Aggies expected, struggling to come up with any sort of consistency offensively and not cranking out the normally dominant defense, especially against the run.

    But even though there wasn’t a Mountain West title, and even with losses in three of the last four games, getting to a bowl still matters to a program that was stuck in a vicious run of 12 straight horrible losing seasons. A loss would mean the first losing season since 2010, and while the program is in a better place now, a loss would be a disaster after winning 30 games in three seasons.

    Why Akron Will Win

    The run defense has been a monster. The pass defense hasn’t been too awful, but no one has been able to generate much of anything against an attacking front seven full of all upperclassmen on a defense that starts seven seniors. Oklahoma was held to 100 yards, Pitt ran for 127 and Bowling Green 112. On the year, no one ran for more than 161 – Eastern Michigan got that in a blowout loss – and the 2.83 yards per carry allowed is among the lowest in college football.

    The pass rush is just okay, and the 75 tackles for loss were solid, but it’s the strong play of the veteran front wall that’s been getting the job done. This group just doesn’t make a whole slew of mistakes, and it should be disciplined and it should be ready for Utah State’s spread attack. The Aggies are 4-1 this year when running for 200 yards or more, but that’s not going to happen in Boise. Akron is going to make Chuckie Keeton throw to make the O go.

    Why Utah State Will Win

    While the Akron offense improved a bit when the competition became lighter, overall the Zip offense has been a disaster.

    Granted, part of the idea is to run the ball, don’t turn the ball over, stay conservative, and let the defense win games, but there’s nothing happening with the downfield passing game on a regular basis. There’s little explosion with the running attack not doing enough to hold its own.

    The Aggie secondary has been stellar, allowing just 180 yards per game, while the run defense has had its moments. It’s not the dominant force it’s been over the last few years, but it’ll be good enough against an offense that averages just 24 points per game and managed a grand total of 38 points in the five losses.

    Players Who Matter

    If it seems like Utah State QB Chuckie Keeton has been around for forever, it’s because he has been.

    It seems like so, so long ago when Keeton almost pulled off a stunning upset to shock defending national champion Auburn on the road to start the 2011 season, but he’s been around and a part of the mix ever since with injuries playing a huge role throughout the last five years. He missed the second half of his first season hurt, and he missed almost all of 2013, 2014, and a large chunk of this year, mostly because of an injured knee.

    But he came back late this year to throw for 243 yards against BYU while setting the school record for career touchdown passes with 61. He played against Toledo the 41-15 blasting of a 2012 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, but that’s been his only post-season appearance. For a player so universally admired and respected around the program, one final big performance would be a great sendoff.

    Not caring about any sort of Chuckie sentimentality is Akron’s heat-seeking missile of a senior linebacker, Jatavis Brown.

    The baddest man on one of the MAC’s baddest defenses, he led the team with 108 tackles with 10.5 sacks and 17.5 tackles for loss including a destructive force of a day against Miami University with two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss, and two more sacks in the loss to Bowling Green. How do you stop a dangerous spread attack? With players like Brown and a veteran front seven that doesn’t overpursue. That’s the Akron defense.

    What’s Going To Happen?

    The Mountain West has dominated the MAC in the last three Potato Bowls, but this one should be a bit of a slugfest. Akron’s defense is too good and too disciplined to let this get out of hand, but the Utah State defense should go back to its old form against a middling Zip attack that won’t go anywhere. Don’t expect any type of a pretty game, but enjoy fantastic linebacker play and a low-scoring battle that should stay close well into the fourth.

    Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Prediction

    Prediction: Utah State 23, Akron 13, Line: Utah State -6.5, o/u: 48.5
    Must See Rating: 5: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – 1: Property Brothers at Home on the Ranch … 2.5

    MORE: 10 Best College Football Bowl Games

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