The 2018 Potato Bowl will be played in the snowy hills of Boise, Idaho. This year the game will feature the Western Michigan Broncos against the BYU Cougars. A year after not being invited to a bowl game, Western Michigan looks to get the best of a solid BYU defense. The BYU faithful is also happy to be invited after missing out in 2017. In fact, BYU “just” made it in, finishing the season 6-6. Western Michigan, on the other hand, finished the 2018 season 7-5, with a six-game win streak in the middle. Even still, BYU is a heavy favorite entering the 2018 Potato Bowl. Here are four things to look for entering the game.
Four Things to Look for: 2018 Potato Bowl
1. BYU defense without defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi
Defensive lineman Corbin Kaufusi sustained a season-ending knee injury, keeping the senior out of the 2018 Potato Bowl. The senior ended with 7.5 sacks and 37 solo tackles on the season. To make up for the loss of Kaufusi, the Cougars will lean heavily on linebacker Sione Takitaki against a strong Western Michigan offense. Another senior leader on the defense, Takitaki enters the Potato Bowl with three sacks, 66 solo tackles, and nine tackles for loss. After spending the 2017 season on the defensive line, Takitaki is having arguably his best season after he moved back to linebacker in 2018. Look for Takitaki to make his presence known against a freshman quarterback.
2. Freshman QB vs. Freshman QB
Both Western Michigan and BYU will feature freshman quarterbacks in the 2018 Potato Bowl. Western Michigan was forced to go to freshman Kaleb Eleby after losing Jon Wassink to injury in late October. BYU, on the other hand, has utilized both senior Tanner Mangum and freshman Zach Wilson in 2018. Eleby is entering the Potato Bowl 1-3 but clinched a bowl berth against Northern Illinois to end the season. Further, after the win against Northern Illinois Eleby gained the confidence of his team and is poised to have a solid game against BYU.
BYU utilized two quarterbacks throughout the 2018 season, but freshman signal caller Wilson is getting the nod over Mangum. Wilson is entering the Potato Bowl with eight touchdowns and three interceptions through eight games this season. The last time he played on the blue field that belongs to Boise State, Wilson had seven seconds to get a touchdown from the Boise State two-yard line. BYU was down by five and needed a touchdown to win. It did not happen for Wilson that night, but in his post game interview he was poised and spoke as if he was a veteran. Wilson will likely have that game on his mind entering the Potato Bowl, but he will be working to change the outcome.
3. Western Michigan enters the game with momentum
The last time BYU was in Alberton’s Stadium was for a 21-16 loss against Boise State on November 3rd. Further, BYU ended their season with a disappointing loss to Utah. Western Michigan, on the other hand, ended their season with a thrilling victory over Northern Illinois, a team that BYU failed to beat earlier in the season. With BYU ending the 2018 season with a loss to Utah, Western Michigan will be entering the matchup on a high note. Everything clicked for the Broncos against Northern Illinois and Eleby got a decisive win under his belt before entering the bowl game. Look for a confident, focused Western Michigan team in Boise.
4. BYU fans’ short commute
Both fan bases were itching for a bowl game to travel to after missing out last season but look for a big BYU crowd in Boise. Cougar fans have to drive a mere five hours to get to the 2018 Potato Bowl. The Western Michigan faithful on the other hand would have to drive 26 hours or hop on a six-hour flight to get to Boise. There is no doubt that Western Michigan fans will be there. With such a short drive for BYU, they will likely have a big showing.
2018 Potato Bowl: The What’s
Who? Western Michigan vs. BYU.
When? Friday, December 21st at 2:00 pm ET on ESPN.
Where? Boise, Idaho in Albertson’s Stadium.