Who: Ohio (8-4) vs. San Diego State (7-5)
What: Frisco Bowl
When: 8 p.m. ET, Wednesday, December 19
Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
Spread: Ohio -2.5
How to watch: ESPN, WatchESPN
For the ninth consecutive season, San Diego State has qualified for a bowl game but the Aztecs are making their first-ever appearance in the Frisco Bowl. San Diego State took a step back this season after three straight seasons of 10 or 11 wins but a win on Wednesday would give the program its eighth season with at least eight wins since 2010. The Aztecs started 6-1 this season after a season-opening loss to Stanford but they limped into bowl season having lost their last three games and four of their last five.
San Diego State Coach Rocky Long, who’s in his eighth season in his current position, has continued the success former SDSU Coach Brady Hoke had in 2010, when the Aztecs went 9-4 with a win in the Poinsetta Bowl. This is the most prosperous era of San Diego State football since the 1970s, when Don Coryell and Claude Gilbert led the program to six seasons with at least nine wins in a nine-year stretch.
Ohio is in the midst of a similar successful bowl streak as the Bobcats earned their fourth straight bowl bid and their ninth in the last 10 years. Historically they’ve struggled in bowl games, entering this year’s Frisco Bowl with a 3-8 bowl record.
A win on Wednesday would represent Ohio’s second 9-4 season (and second bowl win) in a row. Regardless of the outcome, Ohio has had four consecutive years with at least eight wins as Ohio Coach Frank Solich has made the Bobcats one of the most consistent programs in the MAC. You can usually pencil Ohio in for seven to nine wins.
The Bobcats enter the Frisco Bowl as the favorite by nearly a field goal, in large part due to their offense that averages roughly 19 more points per game than the Aztecs. San Diego State scores a touchdown just 54 percent of the time it reaches the red zone.
Ohio has a prolific rushing attack that’s led by A.J. Ouellette, who has rushed for 1,142 yards (6.2 ypc) and 12 touchdowns this season. The Bobcats have two other players with at least 800 rushing yards and at least a 6.0 yards per carry average, including quarterback Nathan Rourke.
Rourke actually leads the team in rushing touchdowns with 13 to go along with 816 rushing yards, which ranks third on the team behind running back Maleek Irons (831 yards, 8 TD). That trio of runners fuels a top-10 rushing attack that averages more than 260 yards on the ground per game.
That’s where the best matchup of the Frisco Bowl lies: Ohio’s rushing attack versus San Diego State’s rush defense. The Aztecs are one of four teams in the country that have held its opponents to an average of less than 100 rushing yards per game. They rank fourth nationally with just 94 yards allowed per game. San Diego State also excels at limiting explosive plays, ranking third nationally in opponent plays of at least 10 yards from scrimmage.
Ohio’s offense is efficient across the board, whether it’s at picking up first downs (24.8 per game), converting on third down (48.3%) or fourth down (63.6%), or scoring in the red zone (88.2%). If the Frisco Bowl is played with the score in the 30s, let alone the 40s, that should favor the Bobcats.
Here’s a look at the statistical strengths of each team, as well as players to watch.
Points per game: 41.2 (10th)
Rushing yards per game: 261 (9th)
First downs per game: 24.8 (11th)
Third down conversion percentage: 48.3% (9th)
Fourth down conversion percentage: 63.6% (21st)
Red zone conversion percentage: 88.2% (31st)
Touchdown percentage in the red zone: 73.5% (14th)
Average time of possession: 33:27 (9th)
Plays of 10+ yards from scrimmage: 211 (16th)
Turnover margin: +13 (6th)
Turnovers forced: 30 (2nd)
Rushing yards allowed per game: 135 (35th)
Opponent fourth down conversion percentage: 41.7% (23rd)
Players to watch
QB Nathan Rourke — 2,225 passing yards, 61.3%, 22 TD, 7 INT, 816 rushing yards, 13 rushing TD
RB A.J. Ouellette — 1,142 rushing yards, 6.2 avg., 12 TD
RB Maleek Irons — 831 rushing yards, 6.6 avg., 8 TD
WR Papi White — 58 receptions, 897 receiving yards, 9 TD
LB Evan Croutch — 79 total tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, 4.0 sacks, 2 INT
San Diego State
Red zone conversion percentage: 87.9% (35th)
Points allowed per game: 21.8 (29th)
Rushing yards allowed per game: 94 (4th)
Opponent fourth down conversion percentage: 38.5% (15th)
Limiting opponent plays of 10+ yards from scrimmage: 111 (3rd)
Players to watch
RB Juwan Washington — 870 rushing yards, 10 TD
WR Fred Trevillion — 22 receptions, 598 receiving yards, 27.2 avg., 3 TD
LB Kyahva Tezino — 120 total tackles, 14.5 tackles for loss, 8.5 sacks, 15 QBH