This one will end up being fairly short, as I’m now back to work and there are bigger matchups to focus on. There are some interesting talking points, however, so it’s not a complete waste of time – as much as the teams seem to suggest otherwise.
The Humanitarian Bowl is played on the “Smurf Turf” of Bronco’s Field at Boise State University. I have long considered this the attempt to get Boise State into a bowl game, at least until they started having some success in the polls. Boise State does have the most appearances in this game at 4, 2 more than any other team, so take from it what you will. Keep in mind that they didn’t play the first two games and haven’t won here since 2002.
Originally the Humanitarian Bowl offered an automatic bid to the Big West conference champion, this of course after the Las Vegas Bowl switched their bids elsewhere. The first several opponents all hailed from Conference USA, and then the fourth season had the Big West face an at large opponent (UTEP). At that point the Big West went belly up (in football at least) and the Humanitarian Bowl switched to becoming a WAC vs. ACC battle.
The ACC continued to send teams to the Humanitarian Bowl until 2008 when they decided not to renew the contract. During that time, the ACC went 5-3 in their games against the WAC. Two of those losses were to Fresno State (absolutely unforgivable) in 2004 (Virginia) and 2007 (Georgia Tech).
The Humanitarian Bowl has existed under several names and sponsors. For three years it was the MPC Computers bowl and then switched back to the Humanitarian Bowl when Roady’s Truck Stops began sponsoring the game. What is Roady’s Truck Stops? Precisely what you think it is – a chain of truck stops.
After the ACC quit sending teams, the Humanitarian Bowl switched to being a WAC vs. MWC matchup. Since all of the bowl eligible Mountain West teams had been snatched up by other games, the Humanitarian Bowl went hunting for an at-large and found it in the MAC.
The WAC team of choice this year was a surprising Idaho team. They started the season 6-1 against mediocre competition, with their one loss to Washington. After that the wheels fell off as they went 1-4 to end the season. The only win came against Louisiana Tech by 1 point. The losses were to Nevada by 25, Fresno State (unforgiveable!) by 10, Boise State by a lot (38), and Utah State by 3. Not precisely the way you want to round out your season, but three of the losses are easily understandable.
The player I most want to point out today is Senior Guard Mike Iupati. You have probably not heard of Iupati unless you peruse the awards lists with a focus and dedication beyond that of mere mortals. The fact that he is so unheralded makes the following list of honors extremely surprising:
NFL Draft Scout currently ranks him as the #1 OG in the nation and an expected first or second round draft pick in 2010. He is worth keeping your eye on – though you may need both considering he’s also 6-6 and 330 pounds!
There are several players to know for Idaho. The first is Junior Quarterback Nathan Enderle. He is not the most spectacular quarterback in the history of the world, but does a decent job with a 62.3% completion and 18 touchdowns to 9 interceptions. One thing he does extremely well is spread the ball around, regularly hitting 5 targets. His favorite is clearly Max Komar who has 62 receptions of the 177 completions thrown and 1036 yards and 10 touchdowns to his name. The other four receivers are equally dangerous, though they don’t see the ball quite as much.
The name that stands out at running back is DeMaundray Woolridge. Woolridge has 148 carries for 854 yards and a gaudy 16 touchdowns on the season. He is obviously helped immensely by the blocking of Iupati up front, and you can expect him to explode in this game against BGSU’s significantly smaller defensive front *.
Bowling Green’s season is almost a precise opposite to Idaho’s. BGSU started out an abysmal 1-4 beating Troy but losing four in a row to Missouri (then #25), Marshall, Boise State (then #8) and Ohio. Somehow, the Falcons managed to pick themselves up and win 6 of their next 7 including 4 straight to round out the season. It won’t win them any awards, but it did get them into a bowl game which is certainly something.
Where Idaho’s offense is balanced, but clearly favoring the run, BGSU’s offense is the exact opposite. Quarterback Tyler Sheehan has thrown 528 passes this season, completing 340 for 3665 yards, 23 touchdowns and 6 interceptions. Those kinds of stats certainly stand out, considering you usually don’t see anyone outside of Texas Tech and SMU (well, it used to be Hawaii) throwing that many passes. Sheehan has a clear favorite target; though he does still hit 5 other targets on a regular basis, Freddie Barnes with 138 receptions for 1551 yards and 16 touchdowns is obviuosly the biggest beneficiary of the BGSU offensive system. Note that the next highest number of receptions is 45!
BGSU will run the ball, and most often it will go to Willie Geter to pound it inside. He’s got 162 carries, 609 yards and 7 touchdowns to his name, so he’s no slouch. He isn’t, however, the mainstay of this offense and therefore he won’t likely be the one winning this game for the Falcons. Keep your eye on him, though, because he can break a big one occasionally. His current long is for 61 yards, though he didn’t score a touchdown on it. The better runner for the Falcons is Chris Bullock with a 5.1 yard per carry average, but he only sees the ball about a third of the number of times that Geter does.
Jeff at the BBC: Bowling Green
Jim: Bowling Green
Not much to say about this one. It’s going to come down to which team manages to exert their system on the game and make success happen. Given the way each played against Boise State Idaho has to be considered the favorite in this one. It may all come down to Idaho’s pass defense shutting down Freddie Barnes and not letting any of the other receivers get hot.
*Compared to Idaho’s recent opponents.