Buffalo (8-4) vs. San Diego State (7-5)|
Saturday, December 21, 5:30 p.m. (ET)
From The Sports Network
By Gregg Xenakes, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The Buffalo Bulls make their way to the other side of the country
for Saturday's Idaho Potato Bowl against the San Diego State Aztecs at Boise
State's Bronco Stadium.
Head coach Jeff Quinn managed to guide his Bulls to an eight-win season even
after opening the 2013 campaign with consecutive defeats versus Ohio State and
Baylor by a combined 110-33 on the road. The team then put together an
impressive run of seven consecutive victories beginning with a 26-23, five-
overtime affair versus Stony Brook on Sept. 14 and on through a 30-3 romp
against Ohio University the first week of November.
Meanwhile, the Aztecs became the first team since 2010 and just the 19th
program since 1980 to start a season 0-3 and still make an appearance in the
postseason. Following the disappointing opening to the campaign, SDSU bounced
back to win seven of the next eight, the lone setback in that span coming in
overtime against nationally-ranked Fresno State, 35-28, at home near the end
While the Aztecs were blown out in the regular-season finale against Mountain
West Conference foe UNLV, 45-19, they were more than happy to accept an
invitation to play in this event.
"I'm really excited," said offensive lineman Bryce Quigley. "The bowl game is
like the reward at the end of the year. So just to be rewarded for all your
efforts throughout the year and spend one last time with your teammates,
especially for us seniors, I'm excited about it."
Buffalo's postseason history is a brief one, with this being just the second
bowl ever for the program which hails from the Mid-American Conference. The
only previous experience the squad has comes from a 38-20 loss to Connecticut
in the 2009 International Bowl held at Rogers Centre in Toronto.
"When you think about a hundred years of football played at UB and this is the
second opportunity for our football program to display and showcase its
talent, its an awesome opportunity, the first time to potentially win our
first bowl game," said Quinn.
As for SDSU, this is the team's fourth straight appearance in the postseason,
as the Aztecs join Stanford as the only teams from the Golden State that can
claim to have played in a bowl game in each of those years. The squad has a
record of 5-6 in postseason outings dating back to the 1948 Harbor Bowl versus
Hardin-Simmons, and losing to BYU in the 2012 Poinsettia Bowl, 23-6, in their
very own stadium (Qualcomm) last year.
The Aztecs are no stranger to the blue turf in Idaho, having upset the Boise
State Broncos just last season by a score of 21-19 in the facility.
In terms of a history between these two schools on the football field, this
marks the first-ever meeting.
The Buffalo offense may not have many household names that are recognized
outside of New York state, but the team does have a number of outstanding
performers on both sides of the ball, one of those being running back Branden
Oliver who ran for 1,421 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. Oliver averaged
five yards per carry for a unit that produced a solid 171.9 ypg on the ground.
Through the air, Joe Licata handles that aspect of the attack, having
completed just over 59 percent of his pass attempts for 219.0 ypg and 21 TDs,
against seven interceptions. His main target has been Alex Neutz who has
rounded up 58 receptions in 12 games, leading to 947 yards and 11 TDs. Fred
Lee has just four fewer catches, but his end results have amounted to only 644
yards and four scores.
Over on the defensive side of the ball, the Bulls were tied for 27th in the
country in points allowed (22.3 ppg) thanks to the efforts of Khalil Mack who
was named the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Mack led the program with 94
tackles, 19 of those coming behind the line of scrimmage, 10.5 sacks, three
interceptions and five forced fumbles. Thanks in large part to Mack, Buffalo
finished in a tie for fourth nationally with a plus-1.3 turnovers per contest
during the regular season.
Despite having only four senior starters on offense, the Aztecs still put
together a solid effort this season as they generated 422.0 ypg, resulting in
28.2 ppg. Had it not been for early defeats against Eastern Illinois and Ohio
State where they logged only 26 combined points, the numbers would look even
more favorable for SDSU heading into the weekend.
Appearing in all but one of the team's 12 games this season, quarterback Quinn
Kaehler helped to stabilize the offense as he completed 60.1 percent of his
passes for 2,796 yards and 17 touchdowns, although he also tossed nine
interceptions along the way. While Ezell Ruffin led the group with 63
receptions for 1,061 yards, it was Colin Lockett who produced a team-best five
TDs on 49 catches.
Providing one of the best one-two punches coming out of the backfield are Adam
Muema and Donnel Pumphrey, combining for more than 350 rushing attempts for
1,765 yards and 20 of the unit's 25 TDs.
Unfortunately, one of the most glaring stats for the Aztecs comes in the
turnover department where they were tied for 118th in the nation with a
minus-1.0 per contest. The defense came up with just seven interceptions,
three by J.J. Whittaker, and nine fumble recoveries.
San Diego State's familiarity with the location for this game is one thing,
but chances are the elements will not mesh well with what the Aztecs are
accustomed to in Southern California. In that regard the Bulls definitely have
the advantage and that could make all the difference on Saturday.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buffalo 30, San Diego State 24
12/18 11:08:09 ET