8:00 PM EST, ESPN – Line: Ohio -2.5, Over/Under: 55
The Bowl Season rolls along as we travel to Frisco, Texas for the DXL Frisco Bowl featuring the San Diego State Aztecs and the Ohio Bobcats, a pair of teams looking to end their respective seasons on a positive note. That certainly fits San Diego State (7-5, 4-4 in MWC), who after winning at least ten games in each of the previous three seasons, including a pair of Mountain West Conference Championships, have come back down to Earth a bit in what has largely been a rebuilding year. longtime Head Coach Rocky Long is set to conclude his eighth year with the Program, leading the Aztecs to their eighth straight Bowl, which is rather impressive when you consider that the school had only participated in a mere five postseason contests from the birth of the Program in 1969 to 2010. However, this is team that does enter their climax to the campaign with anything that can be described as momentum, for San Diego State closed out the Regular Season on a three-game losing streak, and losers of four out of their final five games. When last we saw them, Long’s charges ended up on the wrong end of a 31-30 affair at home against Hawaii, who overcame a 14-3 lead in the First Quarter to take a 24-14 advantage into Halftime. The hosts managed to rally back in the Second Half and force Overtime, but failed to capitalize on a crucial Two-Point Conversion in the first and only extra period, as Long clearly wanted to end things in a timely manner. As has been the case all season, the Aztecs relied on their punishing Rushing Attack to get things going, trampling the Rainbow Warriors for 224 Rushing Yards on Forty-Four Carries, led by Juwan Washington, who accounted for 158 Yards of that total, and both Touchdowns. However, as has also been the case throughout the term, they didn’t get enough out either Quarterback that saw action, with both Christian Chapman (9-of-19, 149 YDS, 1 TD) and Ryan Agnew (3-of-4, 29 YDS, 1 TD) struggling to move the ball through the air. then again, that’s been the story of all year for Long & Co. who have wafted between both Quarterbacks. Chapman (57.5%, 774 YDS, 8.9 Y/A, 4 TD, 1 INT), a Senior who has served as the starter in each of the previous two successful campaigns, had been largely ushered to the side in favor of the younger Agnew (52.3%, 1,525 YDS, 7.7 Y/A, 10 TD, 5 INT), a Redshirt Junior who will likely earn the full-time gig next season. With that said, neither Signal-Caller has really distinguished themselves thus far, with the Passing Game oftentimes an afterthought, averaging just 191.6 Yards on 53.8% Passing. Part of that has been due to Long’s emphasis on the Run, which even without the likes of Rashad Penny, who had rushed for 3,656 Yards and 38 Touchdowns from 2014 to 2017 before being drafted in the First Round by the Seattle Seahawks, has remained the focal point of the Offense. Together, the aforementioned Washington (180 CAR, 870 YDS, 4.8 Y/C, 10 TD) alongside Chase Jasmin (138 CAR, 592 YDS, 4.3 Y/C, 5 TD) have done their best to fill the void left behind by Penny, though all things considered, this hasn’t been the most productive of attacks in the country. The Aztecs run the ball quite a bit, attempting 40.3 Carries per Game, though only average 4.0 Yards per Carry, leading to an average of 162.4 Yards, which means they rely quite a bit on a group that doesn’t really dominate games. Is it any wonder that they’ve only been able to score a paltry 22.3 Points per Game (113th Overall)? Fortunately, the Defense has been solid, allowing just 21.8 Points (29th Overall) on 327.4 Total Yards, including 232.9 Yards against the Pass, and another 94.5 Yards versus the Run. Their Run Defense will really be tested against Ohio, whose option-based Rushing Attack has been one of the most prolific in the country for years now. Long will be counting on playmaking Linebacker Kyahva Tezino (119 TKL, 14.5 TFL, 8.5 SK, 2 PD) and hard-hitting Safety Trenton Thompson (101 TKL, 5.5 TFL, 1.0 SK, 3 INT, 9 PD, 3 FF, 1 FR) keep them in check.
Meanwhile, Ohio (8-4, 7-2 in MAC) finds themselves in their ninth Bowl in the last ten years, while coincidentally serving as the polar opposite of the team that they’ll be facing in this week’s Frisco Bowl. Unlike the Aztecs, the Bobcats are an experienced, veteran team, built around an explosive Offense that has been nothing short of prolific this season, while their play on the defensive side of the football has left a lot to be desired. In his fourteenth year with the Program, Frank Solich has certainly made a comfortable home for himself, going 105-75 over that period of time, taking his charges to ten Bowls, while accumulating a 3-6 record in such contests. Winners of five of their last six outings, Ohio are riding a good deal of momentum into the Postseason, having dismantled the likes of Buffalo and Akron by a combined score of 101-45, further outgaining them 1,114 Yards to 665. When last we saw them, they were busy trampling Akron in a 49-28 affair, in which Solich’s troops raced out to a 21-0 lead in the First Quarter, led 28-7 at Halftime, and never really let their foot off the gas the rest of the way. When it was all said and done, the hosts had amassed 468 Total Yards, with just about all of coming on the ground, rushing for a staggering 381 Yards and Six Touchdowns on Fifty-One Carries. That figure was hardly surprising, for as long as Solich has been in Athens he’s crafted a creative and prolific Rushing Attack, and this year has been no different; the Bobcats have averaged a whopping 262.3 Rushing Yards on a healthy 6.1 Yards per Carry this season, and have topped 300 Rushing Yards on five different occasions thus far, including four times in their last seven outings. Oh, and in case you were wondering, these guys are 5-0 in games in which they reach that threshold. Of course, all this production would be nothing if it didn’t lead to points, and that’s precisely what Ohio does, scoring a stellar 41.2 Points per Game, which is good for Tenth Overall in the Country. Three figures have been central to their success on the side of the football: Quarterback Nathan Rourke (61.3%, 2,225 YDS, 8.8 Y/A, 22 TD, 7 INT), along with Tailbacks A.J. Ouellette (184 CAR, 1,142 YDS, 6.2 Y/C, 12 TD) and Maleek Irons (126 CAR, 831 YDS, 6.6 Y/C, 8 TD). In his second year as the starter, Rourke continues to be adept at dicing up the opposition with both his arm and legs, rushing for 816 Yards and Thirteen Touchdowns on 125 Carries for an average of 6.5 Yards per Carry. Despite completing just 5-of-14 Passes for Eighty-Seven Yards and an Interception in the blowout over Akron, the Junior carried the football eighteen times for Eighty-Six Yards and Four Touchdowns, while Ouellette and Irons rushed for 169 and 126 Yards respectively, with the former scoring a pair of Touchdowns. This matchup with San Diego State should be fascinating in seeing such a potent Running Game butting heads with one of the best Defenses in the country when it comes to stopping the Run; the Aztecs have permitted opponents to average just 94.5 Yards on the ground at a cant 2.7 Yards per Carry, relegating even of their opponents to fewer than 100 Rushing Yards. indeed, something has got to give, folks. On the opposite side of the football, to say that Ohio hasn’t been great at stopping people would be rather kind, particularly when they’re giving up 399.5 Total Yards per Game, including 263.8 Yards against the Pass, with Quarterbacks completing a healthy 61.6% of their attempts. However, they’ve more than made up for all that yardage with Takeaways, totaling Twenty-Nine this term, which ranks among the best in the nation. The Bobcats have logged at least Three Turnovers on six occasions, with nineteen different players getting into the act, including Rourke of all people. Senior Linebacker Evan Croutch (75 TKL, 11.5 TFL, 4.0 SK, 2 INT, 6 PD) has been arguably the most active member of this unit, with Two Interceptions to go along with Four Sacks.