It is the most wonderful time of the year! It’s time for the College Football bowl season! There are 40 bowl games (plus the National Championship game) to look forward to. In this series, I will be looking at all 80 teams who qualified for the postseason and breaking down their matchups. Each installment will focus on teams from a respective conference. This year, two teams will be making their bowl debut, one bowl-eligible team was left home, and there are 14 instances where the teams are facing for the first time in history! Let’s take a look at the 2019 MWC Bowls.
2019 MWC Bowls Preview
Tropical Smoothie Café Frisco Bowl
Utah State vs Kent State
The first bowl the 2019 MWC Bowls schedule is the Frisco Bowl between Utah State and Kent State. The Aggies finished the season 7-5, but 6-2 in MWC play. Their two losses came from the two best teams in this conference, so this USU team is quietly solid. They did drop all three of their FBS non-conference games, of course. So, let’s see how they respond to a more high-powered Golden Flashes offense.
The Aggies are led by their NFL Draft-bound quarterback, Jordan Love. Love is a solid quarterback, but he was not able to replicate his sophomore year’s success in his third year. His junior campaign saw his yards drop from 3,567 to 3,085. He threw just over half as many touchdowns (32 last year, 17 this year) and saw his interceptions skyrocket from 6 all the way up to 16. His decision to forgo his senior year made many scratch their heads, but only he knows what’s best for him. Love’s favorite target was Siaosi Mariner, who accounted for 874 receiving yards and 8 touchdowns.
Perhaps it is due to Love’s decrease in production, but the Utah State defense gave up more yards than they gained per game. If Kent State wants to win this game, they will want to run the ball. The Aggies give up nearly 200 yards on the ground each game. Kent State can move the ball, but they can’t stop anyone. I expect Jordan Love to use this game as his final chance to impress NFL scouts and will lead Utah State to a victory. With the win, the Aggies will break the 1-1 all-time tie with Kent State.
New Mexico Bowl
San Diego State vs Central Michigan
Up next is the New Mexico bowl which features the San Diego State Aztecs and Central Michigan Chippewas. There are not many “Group of Five” teams that can boast a 4-0 non-conference record, but the Aztecs can. The 9-3 squad was a total of 13 points away from an undefeated season.
Contrary to what we may be used to, this San Diego State team was not very good on offense. They averaged 19 points per game which were good for 119th in the nation. Redshirt senior Ryan Agnew is nursing a calf injury, so he will not play in this game. 2,165 passing yards and 11 touchdowns do not win many games, so perhaps the Aztecs will get a spark from freshman Carson Baker. Leading rusher Juwan Washington is dealing with an ankle injury, so it is very possible that sophomore Chance Bell will be toting the rock.
How could a team averaging only 19 points a game possibly win nine games? Their scoring defense is 4th in the nation by allowing only 12.8 points per game. Their defense only gives up 288.7 yards per game, which is good for 5th in the nation. I think that this game is going to be fun to watch, but this defense will be way too much for the Chips. I expect San Diego State to win the first matchup against Central Michigan.
Mitsubishi Motors Las Vegas Bowl
Boise State vs Washington
The Las Vegas Bowl is the official name for this game. However, it is the unofficial Chris Petersen Bowl. His former team in Boise State will be his final opponent as the head coach of the Washington Huskies. The Broncos are the number one team in the history of college football in terms of winning percentage. They overtook both Ohio State and Michigan when the Buckeyes beat the Wolverines. It should be noted, of course, that Boise State has played less than half of the games that OSU has played.
Due to the injury to Hank Bachmeier, the Broncos have had to turn to Jaylon Henderson as of late. The senior, through four starts, has amassed 944 yards and 10 touchdowns. Henderson is also a bit of a duel-threat, as evident by his 14 rush, 51 yards, 1 touchdown performance against Hawai’i in the MWC title game. Even though they do not have a 1,000-yard rusher, they do have freshman George Holani with 979 and seven touchdowns. Holani eclipsed 100 yards three times and actually went for four touchdowns in their matchup with San Jose State. This will be a guy to keep an eye out for in the coming seasons after leading the 2nd ranked MWC offense.
The Broncos defense is led by the MWC defensive player of the year, Curtis Weaver. Weaver’s 13.5 sacks are good for best in the MWC. He also owns top career marks in the MWC in tackles for loss (48) and sacks (34) since 2005. The edge rusher will almost certainly have a place on an NFL roster, but will he declare this year or will he return for his senior season? Unfortunately for Washington and Chris Petersen, I think that this Boise State team will come out on top. The Broncos always seem to show up inspired and their defense will stifle just about anything the Huskies want to do.
Next up, the MWC West division champion Hawai’i faces off against BYU. At 9-5, the Rainbow Warriors competed, yet fell short in many instances against better competition. They took down two PAC 12 foes in Arizona and Oregon State but fell to Washington, Boise State (twice), Air Force, and a 4-8 Fresno State team.
Do you know who Hawai’i’s star quarterback is? It is none other than junior Cole McDonald. McDonald, once again, led the MWC in completions (298), total yards (4,033), touchdowns (29), and efficiency rating (144.4). His 3,642 passing yards is good for 5th in the nation. The drawback is his 14 interceptions. Sophomore running back Miles Reed put up a solid 891 yards and 8 touchdowns, but what is eye-popping are the wide receivers. If Hawai’i were to go off, they could have four athletes with over 1,000 yards receiving. Cedric Byrd (1,068 yards, 10 touchdowns), Jared Smart (987 and 3), and JoJo Ward (975 and 11) have all put together impressive seasons. Even their fourth receiver Jason-Matthew Sharsh put up 823 yards and 4 touchdowns.
For every high-powered offense, there is a weaker defense. It certainly makes a coach happier when both sides of the ball are elite. Unfortunately, Hawai’i is giving up 426 yards and 32 points per game. If they had an average offense, this team would be in a much worse position. As I stated before, I do expect McDonald and that explosive offense to be too much for BYU. When a team is hosting a bowl game, it does well to bet on the home team. Don’t be surprised if Hawai’i can find themselves in the same situation next year thanks to a weaker schedule. I am very interested to see how McDonald will respond to at least three of his leading receivers graduating and moving on. If he can get his interceptions down, look for him to garner some NFL hype as Colt Brennan once did.
Air Force vs Washington State
The second MWC-Pac 12 matchup will come in the Cheez-it Bowl when Air Force takes on Washington State. College football is so much better when the service academies are good. Both Air Force and Navy fielded formidable teams. Unfortunately for the Falcons, they dropped their matchup to the Midshipmen as well as to Boise State.
The nation’s 3rd-ranked rushing offense belongs to Air Force. On eight occasions, the Falcons put up at least 30 points. You don’t usually see that with service academies and their potent triple-option offense. Air Force averages nearly 300 yards on the ground per game thanks to the trio of Taven Birdow, Kadin Remsberd, and Timothy Jackson. The three backs have rushed for 731, 872, and 745 yards, respectively. Add in the 491 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground by quarterback Donald Hammond III, this offense is scary.
As is usual with service academies, the defense is solid and disciplined. Their 208 passing allowed per game will be tested in this matchup with the pass-heavy Cougars. Their 318 total yards allowed is good for 2nd best in the MWC and they have given up less than 20 points per game, good for 3rd in the MWC. All in all, I think that Air Force will not be able to keep up with Anthony Gordon and the Washington State offense. It will be a great test for both teams, but the Cougars will come out on top in their first-ever game against the Falcons
Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl
Wyoming vs Georgia State
Up next is the Arizona Bowl which features Wyoming and Georgia State. The 7-5 Cowboys were generally underwhelming this year. They went 4-4 in MWC play, but their record against bowl-eligible teams was 1-4. They did beat the 6-6 SEC team in Missouri to start the year, so there is some promise.
The Wyoming offense is run-first. Their sophomore running back Xazavian Valladay has run for 1,061 and five touchdowns. Valladay also averages nearly five yards per run. Their quarterback was freshman Sean Chambers. They will be without Chambers in this game due to an injury, so his 915 passing yards, 567 rushing yards, and 17 total touchdowns will be missed.
As with many other MWC teams, the Cowboys rely on their defense. The 2nd-ranked scoring defense in the MWC at 17.8 points per game is also good for 11th in the nation. The specialty of this defense is in stuffing the run. Through their 12 games, they give up less than 100 yards on the ground per game. That tally is good for 2nd-best in the MWC. This will be the difference. Both Wyoming and Georgia State struggle offensively, but I believe in the Cowboys’ defense more than I do in the Panthers. Wyoming will take the first matchup between these two programs.
The final game of the 2019 MWC bowls slate takes place on the legendary blue turf. The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl marks the first time that Nevada and Ohio will meet. Their 7-5 record looks nice on the surface, but this season has been nothing short of tumultuous. In their 12 games, the Wolfpack started three different quarterbacks.
The three quarterbacks who started at quarterback were Cristian Solano (248 passing yards, two touchdowns), “Last Chance U” alumna Malik Henry (586 yards, one touchdown), and their current signal-caller, Carson Strong. Only Solano and Strong remain with the program as Henry was dismissed due to academic issues. Strong’s nine appearances led to 1,933 passing yards and 10 touchdowns. Perhaps this is the right decision considering the team is 4-3 in the games which the freshman appears. Their only constant was running back Toa Taua, but that’s not saying much. Taua has gone for 759 rushing yards and six touchdowns. Unfortunately, he never found pay dirt more than once in a game. All of this combined earns Nevada the distinction of being the 111th offense in the nation. Ouch.
Defensively, Nevada is not much better. The 102nd scoring defense allows just over 32 points per game. There were four instances where the defense allowed more than 300 passing yards and allowed 100 rushing yards seven times. Unless something drastic changes, the Wolfpack will have a hard time corralling Ohio’s big three of Nathan Rourke, O’Shaan Allison, and De’Montre Tuggle. Don’t be fooled by the 6-6 MAC foe, they should roll in this game.
2019 MWC Bowls Results
Thanks to a somewhat favorable schedule of games, the 2019 MWC bowls record will end up being an impressive 5-2. Utah State has a 5-7 all-time record in bowl games, so they should be able to inch closer to a .500 mark. San Diego State is in the same boat at 5-8, whereas Boise State is an impressive 12-6. All-time, Hawai’i is 6-6 in bowl games, but they are 5-5 in bowl games played in Honolulu, thus far. Air Force has the most appearances of this year’s slate, but will not be able to improve on their 12-13-1 record. At 7-8 in bowl games, Wyoming should be able to pull even but Nevada won’t be able to help their 6-10 mark.
Up next will be the conference that popularized the phrase “Power 6”: The American Athletic Conference!
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