The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl has a lot to overcome each year. Of course, there is the name. This game spent year as the Humanitarian Bowl, the Crucial.com Humanitarian Bowl, the MPC Computers Bowl, the Roady’s Truck Stop Humanitarian Bowl, and the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl, before settling in on Famous Potatoes in 2011, (no more Humanitarian now that we have potatoes). There is also the location. Boise, Idaho is a tough holiday vacation sell right before Christmas. None the less, the 2017 version has an intriguing match-up worthy of your time while you are a mashing up a hefty helping of spuds to eat during the game.
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl 2016
Who: Colorado State (7-5, 5-3) vs. Idaho (8-4, 6-2)
When: Thursday December 22nd, 7pm EST
Where: Albertsons Stadium, Boise, ID
The Beginning of the End
This is the beginning of the FBS swan song for Idaho. They will compete at this level in 2017, maybe with another Potato Bowl in sight, and then drop down to FCS after that. The Vandals’ entire bowl history revolves around potatoes and Boise. This will be their third bowl appearance, and the previous two were in what is now known as the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, (1999 and 2009), after completing their first winning season since 2009.
It can be hard to figure out Idaho this season. The most valuable player undoubtedly is kicker Austin Rehkow. You notice we did not call him the placekicker. That’s because the senior handles not only the field goal kicking, the PATs, and the kickoffs, but he has been the primary punter since his freshman year as well. Rehkow finished the season 26 for 29 on field goals and perfect on PATs. He also is particularly proficient at dropping punts inside the 20 yard line. Every little bit helps when your offense scores a total of 339 points while your defense is giving up 357 for the year.
There is some real upside to the Vandals’ season. They have scored at least 34 points in five of the last seven games, and it is due in large part to winning the turnover battle. Idaho is plus-eight in turnover margin on the season. They are +12 in their eight wins and minus-four in the losses.
An Offense with Horns
Colorado State won six of its last seven games due in no small part to an unexpected
change at quarterback. Colin Hill suffered a season-ending knee injury and was replaced by Nick Stevens, who had been second-team all-Mountain West last season. Stevens finished the back half of the season with nearly 1,500 yards and 14 touchdowns against just three interceptions. Over the last five games of the season, the Rams averaged 47 points per game and 520 yards per game. That includes a 63-31 win over eventual conference champion San Diego State.
Those numbers also come as a result of balance on offense. In addition to Stevens’ arm, the ground game has taken shape with five running backs gaining at least 100 yards rushing over the last two games. Factor in that Idaho’s pass defense ranks #112 in the FBS, giving up an average of 270 yards passing per game and it would appear as though this Colorado State team has a chance to prove it is no average sheep herd.
Where Are All The People?
It’s one thing that Idaho is playing somewhat of home game with their campus in Moscow, Idaho being “only” 295 miles away from Boise, but Colorado State fans are deciding it is just too much of a journey from Fort Collins, Colorado for a potato bowl. Each team was allocated 8,000 tickets. As of Tuesday night, Colorado State had sold 445. There are no digits missing from that number. They sold 391 tickets to the general public and 54 to students. The team has a $600,000 travel expense budget for the bowl, but has to get to at least $125,000 in revenue, via ticket sales, for the conference to reimburse the remaining amount.
In all likelihood, the reward for Colorado State making it to a bowl game will be a financial loss for the athletic department. Idaho had sold about 7,000 tickets of its allocation as of this writing. Albertsons Stadium in Boise holds 36,687. There won’t be a lot of shared body heat from crowd Thursday when game time temperatures are expected to be in the mid 20’s.