Idaho Potato Bowl
Ohio U vs. Utah State
Utah State, 7-5, faces off against Ohio University, 9-4, in the Idaho Potato Bowl at BroNCo Stadium in Boise Idaho. Utah State opened as a -3.5 point favorite at 5 Dimes sportsbook and has been bet down to -2.5 with the early money favoring Ohio U. The current total is 57.5.
The first thing we need to address when handicapping this Game is the strength of Schedule Ohio U has played. Simply put, it’s been the weakest Schedule in the nation. Doesn’t mean they aren’t good. Doesn’t mean they can’t win. But it needs to be pointed out. Utah State averaged 34.5 points per Game. Ohio U averaged 31 points per Game. But that doesn’t mean the two offenses are of almost equal strength. You have to keep in mind that Utah State averaged 34.5 points per Game against a Schedule that was at least 7 points more difficult or more. This would be true, across the board, for all stats on both sides of the ball.
A quick glaNCe at each teams Schedule will show us the differeNCe in strength. Utah State played SEC Bowl team Auburn and only lost by 4. They lost to another Bowl team, BYU by 3 and the beat Wyoming, yet another bowl team, with an 8-4 record, 63-19. Ohio did beat Temple, but other than a 38-26 loss to Rutgers, most of the rest of their Games were against MAC teams with losing records.
We always talk about motivation for teams playing in bowl Games. Obviously, a high profile program, say a member of major conference, would be extremely disappointed to be playing in this bowl Game which would likely show up in their performance. That shouldn’t be a problem in this Game. Ohio has been to 5 Bowl Games in their history and lost them all. Two of those Games were in the 60’s and 3 were within the last 5 years, most recently a 48-21 loss to Troy last season.
Utah State has also appeared in just 5 bowl Games. Two of those Games were in the 60’s and one was in 1946! The other 2 were in the 90’s, most recently in 1997, a loss to Cincinnati. Unlike Ohio U, Utah State at least managed to win one of their 5 Games, back in 1993, a 42-33 win over Ball State.
Ohio U has had some recently successful teams, winning 8 or 9 Games 4 times since 2006. Utah State hasn’t had a winning record in years. This year’s 7-5 is their best record in 30 years! They showed signs last year by playing Oklahoma close and beating BYU outright but still only won 4 Games. But 3rd year coach GAry Andersen got them over the hump this year with 7 wins.
So, both teams should be plenty motivated here. Utah State, may be more focused. For the Ohio kids, this is a cross country plane ride and all the distractions that come with playing in a bowl Game. For Utah State, it’s only 300 miles from their campus. It should be more of a “just another Game’ attitude for them. They should also draw great crowd support as a result of the close proximity to their campus.
Yards per point numbers favor Ohio U slightly, and specifically on the defensive side of things. But oNCe again, we must stress the Schedule strength. Neither team has ypp numbers that are anything to brag about.
Our Score Prediction model has Utah State winning by a predicted score of 36-26 and this is a Game where we happen to agree with the model. We think Utah State is the better team and we also think the intangibles such as motivation and distractions also favor Utah State. The line is low enough here at under a field goal and we’re going to go ahead and back the Aggies. Utah State -2.5