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Famous Idaho Potato Bowl: Preview, Predictions, TV info

By Tony Moss | Senior Editor

What: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl

Who: Buffalo (8-4, 6-2 MAC) vs. San Diego State (7-5, 6-2 Mountain West)

When: Saturday, Dec. 21, 5:30 pm ET (ESPN)

Where: Broncos Stadium (36,387), Boise, Idaho

Opening Line: Buffalo -3 1/2

What matters: Buffalo will be seeking the school's first bowl victory, in what will be only the Bulls' second postseason appearance in its FBS history. Buffalo lost to UConn in the 2008 International Bowl. A ninth win would also be a high-water mark for Buffalo in its FBS era. San Diego State is in a bowl for a fourth straight season, but will be seeking its first bowl victory under head coach Rocky Long. Long is 1-6 in bowls dating back to his time at New Mexico. The Aztecs have lost to BYU (Poinsettia Bowl) and Louisiana-Lafayette (New Orleans Bowl) over the last two seasons, with their last postseason victory coming against Navy in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl, under Brady Hoke.

Who matters: Buffalo has two pretty good skill players in running back Branden Oliver (1421 rushing yards, 15 TD) and wideout Alex Neut (58 receptions, 11 TD), but its real star is on the other side of the ball. Linebacker Khalil Mack (94 tackles, 10.5 sacks) finished second in Butkus Award voting and is projected to be an early NFL draft pick next spring. San Diego State is led by former walk-on QB Quinn Kaehler (2796 passing yards, 17 TD, 9 INT), who looks most often to WR Ezell Ruffin (63 receptions, 3 TD). Strong safety Nat Berhe (94 tackles) is probably the Aztecs' best player.

Matchup question: Can San Diego State protect the football? The Aztecs turned the ball over 28 times and had a -1.0 turnover margin that was tied for fourth-worst in all of FBS. Buffalo, meanwhile was fourth-best nationally in that stat. Losing the turnover battle never bodes well and there's evidence the Bulls will have an advantage there.

Prediction: San Diego State has some nice wins this season (most notably Boise State on Nov. 23), but it's hard to be overcome with confidence for a program that lost to FCS Eastern Illinois (badly) early this season and most recently got drilled by UNLV (45-19). In addition to being better prepared for the Idaho cold, Buffalo has done enough this season to suggest it is superior to SDSU. Buffalo 30, San Diego State 20.

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