Bowl Preview Bonanza, Part II

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FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL

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AKRON ZIPS (7-5) vs. UTAH STATE AGGIES (6-6)

Kickoff: 3:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. PT, Tuesday, Dec. 22

TV: ESPN

Las Vegas: Utah State -6.5

Utah State suffered one of uglier downturns in college football this season, nose-diving in the back-half after taking control of their Mountain West Conference championship destiny in October.

The Aggies waylaid Boise State on a Friday night, 52-26, to improve to 4-2. They finished the season on the opposite course, losing four of their last six.

And yet, Utah State is favored against Akron. Credit the relative close proximity to home, as well as the Aggies’ physical defense. Utah State’s season-long average was middling, but misleading. The Aggies held four opponents to 14 or fewer, and should give an Akron offense that ranked No. 100 nationally fits on Tuesday.

Akron could also be overwhelmed by the stage of a national telecast, playing in the program’s first bowl game since 2005, and just second postseason ever.

Terry Bowden’s done a remarkable job turning Akron around after the program went a combined 3-33 from 2010 through 2012. The real coaching MVP in Akron’s second-ever bowl season, however, is another familiar name: Chuck Amato.

The former NC State head coach and Bobby Bowden assistant has the Zips giving up just 21.5 points per game, 28th-best in the nation. Behind MAC Defensive Player of the Year Jatavis Brown, Akron can match Utah State’s defense stride for stride.

This one comes down to a well-known X-factor.

The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton’s swan song. Keeton traversed a long and tumultuous road through his college career, one in which injuries relegated him from national darling to afterthought.

Nevertheless, Keeton’s named is etched in Utah State football history.

A win in his last contest is one more opportunity for the best quarterback in Utah State history to leave his mark.

PREDICTION: UTAH STATE 24, AKRON 21