Two football teams that have never played in a Potato Bowl headed to Boise

The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl banner is unfurled before the 2011 game between Utah State and Ohio.
The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl banner is unfurled before the 2011 game between Utah State and Ohio. Idaho Statesman file

A pair of newcomers will play in the 21st Famous Idaho Potato Bowl as Wyoming takes on Central Michigan at 2 p.m. Dec. 22 on ESPN.

Neither the Cowboys (7-5, 5-3 Mountain West) nor the Chippewas (8-4, 6-2 Mid-American) have played in the Potato Bowl at Albertsons Stadium on the campus of Boise State.

“There is always extra enthusiasm around the bowl when we have two first-time participants, and this year will be no different,” said Kevin McDonald, executive director of the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

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The invitation to the Potato Bowl allows Wyoming to qualify for a bowl in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1987-88. But the Cowboys travel to Boise with the status of their star quarterback up in the air.

Junior Josh Allen injured his right (throwing) shoulder in a win against Air Force, and Wyoming has lost two straight without Allen, who started the season as a possible first-round NFL draft pick.

“We’re excited about being in a bowl game for the second year in a row,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said in a news release. “I know it’s been many years since Wyoming has gone to back-to-back bowl games, and we are proud of our players for achieving consecutive bowl appearances.”

Wyoming already has played once on the blue turf this season, falling 24-14 to Boise State on Oct. 21.

Central Michigan enters the Potato Bowl on a five-game winning streak and with one of the country’s top playmaking defenses.

The Chippewas lead the country with 31 forced turnovers this season, and defensive backs Josh Cox (six interceptions) and Sean Bunting (five) rank in the top 10 in the country in interceptions.

Meanwhile, defensive end Joe Ostman has racked up 12 sacks in 10 games. His average of 1.2 sacks per game leads the nation.

The bowl appearance is the ninth in 12 years for Central Michigan, which is 3-7 all-time in bowls. Wyoming owns a 6-8 record in bowl games.

Idaho won last year’s Potato Bowl 61-50 over Colorado State. The 111 points set a Potato Bowl record and ranks tied for third in bowl history. The Vandals and Rams combined for 84 points in the second half, the most in any half in bowl history.

Last year’s game also tied for the sixth-coldest in bowl history with a kickoff temperature of 22 degrees.

Michael Lycklama: 208-377-6424, @MichaelLycklama