Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Who would’ve thought a matchup between a Sun Belt and MWC school would have one of the bigger spreads of the bowl season, but that’s exactly what the Potato Bowl brings. Colorado State is a -13.5 point favorite over Idaho as seen at 5 Dimes Sportsbook.
From the outside, Idaho seems like the home team, but this Game will be played at Boise State, which is almost six hOurs away from the Idaho campus. The Vandals finished at 8-4, but didn’t really show anything in Games against relevant competition. They didn’t beat anyone with a winning record, although have a couple wins over six-win teams.
Colorado State was kind of in that same vein until late in the year, winning its final two Games to go 7-5. The Rams lost big to rival Colorado in the opener, but almost upset a solid Minnesota team before MWC play began. They took Boise State to the wire on the same field as this bowl Game, and more importantly closed the regular season with wins over two solid teams, especially a 63-31 win at San Diego State.
In like opponents, Idaho beat UNLV 33-30 (overtime) in late September while CSU won 42-23 in late October. That’s probably a big reason for this spread as the Rams climbed out to a 35-0 lead before taking their foot off the pedal in that win.
While the Vandals are underdogs, it’s been an impressive season for them, considering they’ll be dropping to FCS level after 2017. Most of their numbers are mediocre, and they’ll likely have some issues defensively in this Game as they haven’t stopped a viable offense all year. To compete, they’ll need consistency on offense, again, something that didn’t happen against better defenses.
Quarterback Matt Linehan has been fine, but he didn’t really improve from last year. In fact his numbers are just below what they were a season ago. He has 15 TDs and 10 INTs, only surpassing one passing touchdown in three Games. The problem is that the ground Game is also mediocre between Aaron Duckworth (619 yards, 4 TDs) and Isaiah Saunders (584 yards, 6 TDs). Saunders has taken the lead in the last few Games, but this Colorado State defense is arguably better than anything Saunders has seen as of late.
Of course, the numbers don’t show that CSU is better, but that’s mostly because of more competition in the MWC than the Sun Belt. The Rams contained UNLV for most of the Game until they let up in the second half. Idaho played in a back-and-forth battle with the Rebels.
The Rams have a similar offense in that they can run and pass, but the difference is that they do it better than the Vandals. Quarterback Nick Stevens lost his job earlier in the year, but he’s been great over the final two months, completing 65.5% of his passes for 14 touchdowns and just one interception. Freshman starter Collin Hill tore his ACL, but former starter Stevens stepped in and didn’t look back. His yards per attempt is at 9.04 while Linehan’s is at 7.30.
A better Colorado State running Game helps with Dalyn Dawkins (801 yards) and Izzy Matthews (705 yards), who have each gone for 100-plus yards the last two Games. Idaho has a solid run defense, but even if that pans out, Stevens has the ability to beat one of the worst pass defenses in the country (112th) with Michael Gallup (1,164 yards, 11 TDs) on the receiving end.
Any way you put it, this is a tall task for Idaho and all Four of its losses have come by at least 18 points.
The Vandals have covered in seven straight Games overall, while the Rams are 8-0 vs. a team with a winning record and 14-3-1 ATS in their last 18 non-Conference Games.
Our Pick – While the numbers favor Colorado State, we’re going to take almost two TD’s with a very motivated underdog in what figures to be the last hurrah for the Vandals on the big stage. Idaho +13.5