Trying to win back-to-back bowl games for just the second time in school history, Utah State (7-5) takes on Kent State (6-6) in the Tropical Smoothie Cafe Frisco Bowl.
The Golden Flashes are back in a bowl game for the first time since 2012 and look to get their first-ever bowl victory on Friday against the Aggies.
Date: Friday, December 20
Time: 5:30 p.m. MT
Announcers: Anish Shroff, John Congemi, Kris Budden
Location: Toyota Stadium — Frisco, Texas
The Spread: Utah State -6.5
Money Line: Utah State -240, Kent State +200
Kent State in a bowl game?
Kent State is one of the more surprising teams this season, finishing 6-6, (5-3 in the MAC) and reaching their fourth bowl in program history and first since 2012. Head coach Sean Johnson – the youngest coach in FBS at 33 – has the Golden Flashes headed in the right direction after a 2-10 record last year.
Aggies Going Bowling Again
The Aggies have been no strangers to postseason football as of late, appearing in their eighth bowl games in nine seasons after making just six before their current run started in 2011. Utah State has won four bowl games during their current streak, including a 52-13 blowout victory over North Texas in last season’s New Mexico Bowl.
Utah State vs. The MAC
After a win over Ball State in the 1993 Las Vegas Bowl, two of the Aggies bowl losses in the last nine seasons have come against MAC opponents, a 24-23 heartbreaker in the 2011 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Ohio and a 23-21 contest in Boise again in 2015, this time to Akron. Both of the close losses were the first bowl wins in school history for their respective opponents. Will Kent State get its first bowl win against Utah State?
First round pick?
Utah State quarterback Jordan Love recently declared for the 2020 NFL Draft, and despite a recent off-field incident, is still one of the higher rated quarterbacks in the latest mock drafts. The latest cbbssports.com mock draft has him going in the first round, 14th overall to the Las Vegas Raiders.
Love remains a top prospect due to his arm strength and his mostly strong 2018 season, where he threw for 3,567 yards, completing 64 percent of his passes for 32 touchdowns to just six interceptions as the Aggies went 11-2. He struggled this season, throwing for 3,085 yards with just 17 touchdowns and 16 picks with most pundits pointing to a new head coach, offensive coordinator and a group of inexperienced receivers to his receding stat line. Even with a lesser team around him, Love was still named honorable mention All-Mountain West and got the Aggies to a bowl with a 7-5 record.
While the season was very Jekyll-and-Hyde for Utah State, the Aggies still had highlights to their season.
The punt return specialists averaged 12.55 yards per return, ranking 20th in FBS and adding a touchdown return. Utah State also converted 42.4 percent of its third downs, ranking 38th in the nation.
Despite the strengths, the Aggies also some glaring weaknesses. The offensive line tied for 16th in the country in tackles for loss allowed, while the offense struggled mightily to convert red zone opportunities, going just 33-for-46 (20 TD, 13 field goals), good for 122nd in FBS. There are 130 teams at the FBS level. In other words, yikes.
The Golden Flashes also rate pretty highly in third down conversion percentage at 43.6 percent, good for 32nd in the nation, just ahead of the Aggies at 38.
Kent State’s offense is led by quarterback Dustin Crub, who’s tossed for 2,333 yards through the air with 18 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He also is the team’s leading rusher, with 560 yards on 145 carries and five scores.
The Golden Flashes biggest weakness is its defense, allowing 31 points per game and 470.8 ypg of total offense. They rank 91st and 120th in FBS in those categories respectively.
Prediction: Utah State 37, Kent State 30
This game could come down to the kickers. Both have had great seasons, with Aggies K Dominic Eberle making 86.4 percent of his field goals (19/22 overall, 13-13 inside 40 yards), while Kent State K Matthew Trickett is 24/29 on the season (82.8 percent, 9-10 from 40-49 yards).
While the kickers will likely play a factor – especially since both teams aren’t great at scoring red zone touchdowns – the Aggies will use their superior offense to overcome the Golden Flashes mistake-prone defense. Utah State QB Jordan Love will put on a show for the NFL scouts in a win, ending his Aggie career with a bowl victory.