Colorado State (7-5) vs Idaho (8-4)
When: Thursday, December 22nd 2016
Where: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID
Time: 7:00 ET | TV: ESPN
The Idaho Vandals won’t have to travel far for their third Bowl game ever when they take on the Colorado State Rams in Boise, Idaho. The Vandals were dismissed from the Sun Belt effective after next season and are electing to drop down to the FCS level in hopes of enjoying more success and losing less money. Not much was expected from this Idaho squad when it lost consecutive games against Washington and Washington State in September by a combined 115-20 score. Idaho won six of their last seven games to qualify for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl for the third time. Junior quarterback Matt Linehan, who is the son of Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, has passed for 2,803 yards and 15 touchdowns with 10 interceptions this season. Aaron Duckworth (615 yards, four touchdowns) and Isaiah Saunders (584, six) share the rushing attack while senior tight ends Trent Cowan (46 receptions, 532 yards, six touchdowns) and Deon Watson (36, 555, two) are Linehan’s top targets. The defense held three of its last four opponents to 14 or fewer points and is led by middle linebacker Tony Lashley (team-best 99 tackles), defensive end Aikeem Coleman (team-leading eight sacks) and senior cornerback Jayshawn Jordan (team-high five interceptions).
The Rams come in even hotter than Idaho, winning four of their last five contests – including a 63-point eruption in a victory over Mountain West champion San Diego State. The Rams are playing in a bowl for the fourth consecutive season, the second-longest streak in school history behind a string of five under Sonny Lubick from 1999-2003. Colorado State averaged 47.4 points and 520.6 yards over its final five games, with the four victories during the stretch coming by an average of 26.5 points. Things started off bad for Colorado State when standout freshman quarterback Collin Hill (1,096 yards, eight touchdowns) was lost to a torn ACL in his left knee in October, but former starter Nick Stevens got the Rams rolling toward a Bowl berth. The junior threw 14 touchdowns against just one interception over the final six games and wide receiver Michael Gallup (70 catches, 1,164 yards) recorded eight of his 11 receiving scores after Stevens regained the job. The defense is led by senior weak-side linebacker Kevin Davis, who posted a team-leading 101 tackles, with middle linebacker Josh Watson (80 tackles) and free safety Braylin Scott (team-high three interceptions) also enjoying solid seasons.
Colorado State’s offense is tough to stop right now, but Idaho has been playing better defensively and has a good enough offense to keep up. This seems like a lot of points, so I’ll take it.
Pick: Idaho +15