Neither Utah State nor Ohio has a rich tradition in bowl games, going a combined 1-11.
Either the Aggies or the Bobcats can start changing that poor postseason history when they meet in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl on Saturday.
Utah State (7-5) heads to Boise for its first postseason appearance since losing 35-19 to Cincinnati at the 1997 Humanitarian Bowl - also played at Bronco Stadium. The Aggies fell to 1-5 all-time in bowl games, with the only win coming over Ball State in the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl.
Ohio (9-4) is appearing in a bowl for a third straight year for the first time in school history but has yet to win one. The Bobcats’ 0-5 mark in postseason play includes three defeats under Frank Solich, who took over as coach in 2005.
Solich’s team lost to Southern Mississippi 28-7 in the 2007 GMAC Bowl in the school’s first bowl appearance in 38 years, then fell 21-17 to Marshall in the 2009 Little Caesars Bowl and 48-21 to Troy in last year’s New Orleans Bowl.
“The Ohio University football program is extremely excited for this wonderful opportunity in Boise,” Solich said. “For the past two years, this has been one of the premier bowl games for the Mid-American Conference. I couldn’t be happier for our team and our 17 seniors, who have given so much to this program.”
The Bobcats posted five straight victories to win the MAC’s East Division before falling 23-20 to Northern Illinois in the conference championship game Dec. 2. Ohio squandered a 20-0 halftime lead and lost on a field goal as time expired, ending the Bobcats’ hopes of winning their first MAC title since 1968.
Still, third-year Utah State coach Gary Andersen is well aware of the challenge his squad will face.
“I have tremendous respect for coach Frank Solich as a head coach and his program,” Andersen said. “They are very well-coached, and we will be facing a big, fast, physical football team.”
Utah State, which finished second in the WAC and is riding a five-game winning streak, will counter with its speed and a rushing attack which averages 277.5 yards to rank sixth in the FBS. Robert Turbin is 10th in the nation with 118.0 rushing yards per game, including seven 100-yard efforts, and was named the WAC offensive player of the year.
Turbin, though, was held to 159 yards on 43 carries over the last two games and didn’t score a touchdown in either one after totaling 19 through the first 10 contests.
“There are games I don’t necessarily wish I had back, but could have done things better,” Turbin told the school’s official website.
He’ll face an Ohio run defense which ranked third in the MAC, allowing 126.4 yards per game, and kept two of its last four opponents under 70.
The Bobcats’ offense, however, was held below 400 yards for the first time in eight games in the loss to Northern Illinois and had only 130 on the ground.
Sophomore Tyler Tettleton threw a career-high three interceptions and failed to throw a TD pass for the first time all season. Still, he finished with 3,082 yards and 26 touchdowns through the air, and he’s also a threat on the ground after rushing for 627 yards and nine scores.
Utah State features the WAC’s top-ranked defense, having allowed 368.0 yards per game. The Aggies, though, have given up an average of 429.6 during their winning streak, including 500 yards in a 21-17 win over Nevada on Nov. 26.
The only meeting between these teams came Sept. 17, 1994, when Utah State won 5-0 at Ohio.