Famous Idaho Potato Bowl matchup set: Utah State vs. Akron

Utah State, which defeated Boise State this season, will play in its third Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Utah State, which defeated Boise State this season, will play in its third Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. Statesman file

It will be a familiar bowl environment for one team. For the other, simply being in a bowl game is a rarity.

Utah State and Akron will face off in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl at 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 22 at Albertsons Stadium. It will be the Aggies third appearance in five years, and only the Zips’ second-ever bowl appearance (lost to Memphis in 2005 Motor City).

“This bowl game is a great reward for our team and its accomplishments this year, and solidifies the strength and consistency of this program,” Utah State coach Matt Wells said.

“The thing that’s beginning to hit us is, now it’s time to go win a bowl, not just play in a bowl, but win a bowl,’’ said Akron coach Terry Bowden, the former Auburn coach and ABC broadcaster.

Both teams head into the game with different momentum: Utah State has won two of its last six games after its 52-26 win over Boise State on Oct. 16, while Akron has won four straight. The Zips’ nine-season bowl drought was third longest among teams that are continuous FBS members.

Each team has shown an ability to create frustration for opposing offenses this season. The Aggies forced eight turnovers against the Broncos in Logan, while the Zips have forced 25 turnovers and held six teams to 14 points or fewer.

“It will be great to have Utah State return to the bowl since they have a fantastic regional fan base and always bring excitement to Boise,” Executive Director Kevin McDonald said. “We are also thrilled to host Akron for the first time and look forward to their big defensive play on the field.”

There will be some history riding on the outcome. A defeat would mean Utah State’s first losing season since 2010, also the last time the Aggies did not reach a bowl game. Akron’s eight wins would be its most in a season since 1985, when it went 8-4 and reached the Division I-AA playoffs, its next-to-last year before moving up to I-A.

Though Wells’ program knows Boise well, Akron rarely travels west. The Ohio-based team has not played west of the Rockies since a Sept. 22, 1979, loss at Boise State. Bowden’s brother, Tommy, coached Clemson in the 2001 Humanitarian Bowl, and in 2005, Terry Bowden was a featured speaker during Boise’s bowl week.

“I’m excited,’’ Bowden said. “It’s a beautiful place, they know how to run a bowl.’’

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