Nothing says Bowl Season like the 2021 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl! This year’s edition features MAC runner-up Kent State versus the Mountain West’s Wyoming on the blue turf in Boise. (Want to brush up on your Potato Bowl history? Here’s our coverage from 2020 and 2019).
The Kent State Golden Flashes finished with a 7-6 record, losing in the MAC Championship to Northern Illinois. Among their defeats were two to ranked teams, #6 Texas A&M and #5 Iowa. Interestingly, all of their regular-season losses came on the road.
Wyoming had an inconsistent season, finishing 6-6. Most of their defeats were in fairly close games, aside from a 38-14 loss to Hawaii. However, they also beat MAC champ Northern Illinois, and eventual Mountain West winner Utah State, both on the road. The Cowboys are also a more disciplined team than their record might suggest, averaging under five penalties per game. That ranks 22nd nationally.
When Kent State Passes
Flashes’ quarterback Dustin Crum finished his senior campaign with good stats. He completed 64% of his passes for 2,922 yards, 16 touchdowns, and six interceptions. Half of those touchdown passes went to wide receiver Dante Cephas, who caught 78 balls for 1,124 yards. Four other players caught at least one touchdown pass. Watch for 6’6″ tight end Kris Leach- they don’t throw to him very often, but two of his nine catches this season went for six points.
The main stat that should concern Kent State fans comes into play here: Crum has been sacked 33 times. For comparison, Wyoming has given up 20 sacks, divided between two quarterbacks. Cowboys’ nose tackle Cole Godbout has gotten to quarterbacks four times this season, and defensive end Solomon Byrd is close behind with 3.5. And while Crum isn’t particularly interception-prone, linebacker Chad Muma has picked off three passes, and taken two of them to the house.
Advantage: Call it a draw.
When Kent State Runs:
Running back Marquez Cooper‘s 1,080 yards give Kent State a 1,000-yard guy at QB, WR, and RB. Cooper and Crum each rushed for 11 touchdowns. Six other players have found the end zone on the ground for the Flashes at least once, and their run game is the fourth-best in FBS. (Their passing game ranks 60th). Wyoming will have to lean heavily on the aforementioned Chad Muma, whose 129 tackles lead the team by a wide margin, to keep Kent State’s rushers from getting into the secondary.
Advantage: Kent State, but only slightly. They’re averaging over 250 yards per game, but Wyoming’s run defense ranks a very respectable 37th and allows just 195.
When Wyoming Passes:
The Cowboys started the season 4-0, but after dropping to 4-3, freshman Levi Williams was inserted at quarterback. He finished with a 3-2 record as the starter, throwing for 863 yards, eight touchdowns, and six picks. His completion percentage hovered in the upper 50s, and he was sacked six times. His favorite target, Isaiah Neyor, caught 39 passes for 791 yards and 11 touchdowns. Receiver Joshua Cobbs and tight end Treyton Welch are the only other Cowboys with a touchdown catch this season.
Williams should be very careful throwing against the Flashes. While their total defense ranks 122nd, they have one cornerback (Montre Miller) with four picks, and another (Elvis Hines) with 10 passes defensed. Add in defensive lineman C.J. West and his five sacks, and you have a potential recipe for a long day on the Wyoming sideline. Expect offensive coordinator Tim Polasek to call a lot of short passes and other plays that let Williams get the ball out quickly.
Advantage: Kent State
When Wyoming Runs:
The good news for Wyoming is that their run game is actually quite good. Good enough, in fact, to be ranked 29th in FBS.
Xazavian Valladay and Titus Swen run the show in the backfield (pun intended). Valladay, a senior, leads in yardage with 984; sophomore Swen leads in touchdowns, with seven to Valladay’s five. Given the trouble Kent State should give the Cowboys in the passing game, expect both to see a heavy workload against the Golden Flashes’ 106th-ranked run defense.
Advantage: Wyoming. They’ve shown that they can get wins in grind-it-out games.
Both teams have had issues in the kicking game this year. Kent State’s Andrew Glass missed two field goals from under 30 yards, and made 14 of 17 tries from longer range, with a long of 43. Wyoming’s John Hoyland was 9-for-9 under 40 yards, and 0-for-4 from longer range. Both teams are in the bottom third of the rankings in punting yards and punt return yards.
Advantage: Neither. This is a wash.
Both of these teams can run the ball effectively, but Kent State has a decided edge in terms of the passing game. They may need to take advantage of that against Wyoming’s stout run defense. This should be a competitive game, but your 2021 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl Champion will be Kent State. Get ready for the french fries, coach Sean Lewis!