2022 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
From the Smurf Turf in Boise, it’s the 2022 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl! This year’s edition features the 8-4 Eastern Michigan Eagles versus the 7-4 San Jose State Spartans. Both teams are appearing in the Potato Bowl for the first time, but it’s not the first time they’ve faced each other in a bowl game. The lone bowl victory in EMU history is a 30-27 victory over SJSU in the 1987 California Bowl. We didn’t cover that game, but if you’d like to refresh your memory about previous Potato Bowls, we’ve got you covered.
Did you know? The Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is the northernmost bowl game.
The Eagles very nearly qualified for the MAC Championship, losing the head-to-head tiebreaker in their division to Toledo. They’ve qualified for a bowl game in five of the last seven seasons under head coach Chris Creighton, and would love to add a second trophy to their case. Unfortunately for them, San Jose State is favored by 3.5. ESPN’s football power index gives the Spartans a 66.5% chance to win the game. But anything can happen, and at no point in the season is that more true than in bowl games.
Senior quarterback Taylor Powell finished the season with 1,813 yards, 14 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. His leading target was Tanner Knue, with 592 yards and nine scores, but three other receivers and two tight ends also had at least 200 yards receiving. Combined, they also caught 11 more touchdowns.
At running back, Samson Evans is the guy SJSU needs to key in on. The senior ran for 1,084 yards on 224 carries and found the end zone 13 times.
On defense, the player to watch, hands down, is defensive end Jose Ramirez. The MAC Defensive MVP, Ramirez finished the season with 12 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. (Incidentally, SJSU also has a conference Defensive MVP on their roster- more on him later). The senior is projected to be a possible day-three NFL draft pick.
One concerning stat for the Eagles: their turnover margin of zero. While the defense has seven fumble recoveries and 10 interceptions, the offense has 17 giveaways as well.
San Jose State
The 7-4 Spartans enter the 2022 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl led by quarterback Chevan Cordeiro. The junior put up flashy numbers this season, throwing for 2,885 yards and 20 touchdowns, with just four picks. (He also ran for eight touchdowns). The only other FBS quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts and no more than four interceptions? Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams from Southern Cal, and Playoff-bound Max Duggan of TCU.
Cordeiro’s top target is senior Elijah Cooks, who finished the season just short of 1,000 yards. He caught half of Cordeiro’s 20 passing touchdowns. The rest were spread among seven different receivers. Oddly, while sophomore Justin Lockhart has caught 34 passes and ranks second on the team with 566 yards, he’s not one of the eight with a touchdown catch.
In the run game, Kairee Robinson is The Guy. Robinson has run for 696 yards and 10 touchdowns, followed by the 215 yards and eight touchdowns of his quarterback. He actually has just 14 more carries than Cordeiro.
As gaudy as the passing numbers are for SJSU, we expect their defense to cause EMU at least as much trouble, if not more. Defensive end Viliami Fehoko is the Mountain West Conference Defensive MVP. Fehoko led the Mountain West in tackles for loss and was fourth in FBS with 18.5; his nine sacks were second in the MWC, and 10th in FBS. Fehoko’s brother Breiden, a standout on LSU’s most recent national championship team, plays for the Los Angeles Chargers. He’s also the second cousin of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Vita Vea.
The Spartans rank 26th in FBS in total defense and 28th against the run. They have five recovered fumbles and 13 interceptions for an FBS fourth-best turnover margin of +12.
On paper, the 2022 Famous Idaho Potato looks like a win for San Jose State. Both teams are strong on defense, but the Spartans have the superior offense. However, we’ve all seen over the years how unpredictable bowl games are. Get your french fries ready- this should be a good one!