Saturday Storylines: Bowltyme!
Three bowl games of varying degrees of glory kick off the 2011 postseason. Study up!
New Mexico Bowl (Temple vs. Wyoming): 2 p.m. ET, ESPN.
The first bowl of the postseason features two programs with something to prove. Last season, Al Golden’s Temple squad finished 8-4 but was the only bowl-eligible team with more than six wins not to receive a postseason invitation. First-year Temple coach Steve Addazio helped the Owls avoid another snub in 2011 with a stingy defense and run-based offense that scored at least 34 points in seven of eight victories behind the nation’s seventh-best rushing attack (257 yards per game). Meanwhile, Wyoming aims to brand the New Mexico Bowl as its own by seeking the program’s second straight victory in the Albuquerque classic.
Wyoming was the surprise of the Mountain West, finishing 5-2 in the conference while playing freshman quarterback Brett Smith. The Cowboys did that, however, despite a wretched defense that finished 115th nationally against the run (230.1 yards per game). That’s music to the ears of Temple’s Bernard Pierce, the nation’s sixth-leading rusher (125.6 yards per game).
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Utah State vs. Ohio): 5:30 p.m., ESPN.
The second bowl of the postseason is the most likely to produce an exciting clash on opening weekend. Two conference runners-up will meet on the Smurf Turf inside Bronco Stadium chasing something both programs are unfamiliar with: a postseason win. While both teams had successful 2011 campaigns, their postseason records don’t amount to a sack of potatoes (sorry, it had to be done). The Bobcats are 0-5 in their bowl history and 0-3 under current head coach Frank Solich. The Aggies haven’t done much better, posting a 1-5 mark and coming off a 14-year bowl drought.
Utah State won its last five games to play its way into the school’s first bowl trip since 1997. Running back Robert Turbin (1,416 yards, 19 TDs) leads a powerful Aggies rushing attack that ranks sixth nationally (277.5 yards per game). Frank Solich’s Ohio team may be more talented, but after losing the MAC title game it probably isn’t a geeked as Utah State for this destination.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl (Louisiana vs. San Diego State): 9 p.m. ET, ESPN.
Ronnie Hillman. If you haven’t heard of the Aztecs’ sophomore sensation, it’s time to get acquainted. The 5-foot-10, 190-pounder led San Diego State to back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time in program history and finished with 1,656 rushing yards and 19 touchdowns this season, third and sixth in the FBS, respectively.
If ever you wanted to see a fan base fired up for the New Orleans Bowl, look no further than the Ragin Cajuns’ faithful, expected to flood the Superdome for the school’s first bowl game. They bought 18,500 tickets through the school, and at least 20,000 more are expected to attend. But Ryan Lindley and the Aztecs are the better team and will spoil the party.
Get prepped and ready for the New Mexico, Idaho Potato and New Orleans Bowls with SI Dot Com’s college football postseason coverage. Bowl rankings | Bowl picks | NFL prospects | Complete bowl schedule