Matt Wadleigh’s Dec 20-24 Mountain West Bowl Previews

Analysis and predictions for the Famous Idaho Potato, Armed Forces, and Hawai'i bowls

Posted on December 20, 2022

  By Matt Wadleigh, SuperWest Sports

The Mountain West Conference began bowl season with the two division winners playing on Saturday.

Boise State defeated North Texas in a thrilling contest, and the MWC champion Fresno State Bulldogs blew out Washington State in the LA Bowl.

This week there are three other MWC teams playing in bowl games, and we will discuss and give predictions for those games.

Famous Idaho Potato BowlSan Jose State vs Eastern Michigan

12:30 PM PT, ESPN, December 20, 2022, Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho

San Jose State and Eastern Michigan will face off for just the second time in history, with the first matchup coming back in 1987 in the California Bowl.

Both teams have four losses on the year and neither team has a home-field advantage with the game being played in the Blue Turf of the Boise State Broncos.

The Spartans began the year 4-1 and were in control of the West Division before losing to the Jake Haener-less Bulldogs. After that loss, they finished the season 3-2 with losses against San Diego State and Utah State, but Brent Brennan’s team still had a productive season.

San Jose State QB Chevan Cordeiro | Butch Dill/AP

Spartans QB Chevan Cordiero made second-team All-MWC with 20 touchdowns and just four interceptions while throwing for 2,884 yards and adding another eight scores on the ground. The Hawaii transfer excelled in his lone season with the Spartans and will look to end the campaign with a bowl victory.

Spartans WR Elijah Cooks earned first-team All-MWC honors with 983 yards and 63 catches including 10 trips to the end zone.

Eastern Michigan won three straight games to finish the tear at 8-4 and loves to rely on running back Samson Evans, who has 1,084 yards with 13 rushing scores this season. Tanner Knue is also a weapon at WR, and he has 42 catches for 592 yards and nine touchdowns on the year.

The Eagles have scored 30 or more in each of the past three games, and their offense can put up points in a hurry.

Both teams can score points easily and quickly, and this could be one of the highest-scoring games of the bowl season. It’s a coin flip, but I’ll lean toward the Eagles here ever so slightly.

Prediction: Eastern Michigan 38, San Jose State 35

Armed Forces BowlAir Force vs Baylor

4:30 PM PT, ESPN, December 22, 2022, Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas

The Air Force Falcons were one of the best teams in the MWC all season long but couldn’t fend off Boise State for a shot at the Mountain Division title.

The Baylor Bears finished with a 6-6 mark, although they had three losses at the end of the season to a trio of top-25 teams: Kansa State, TCU, and Texas.

The Big-12 versus MWC matchup is tough to predict.

The Falcons live through MWC Offensive Player of the Year Brad Roberts, who rushed for an eye-popping 1,612 yards and 15 touchdowns on 308 carries as the Falcons led the country in rushing (331.5 yards per game). The Falcons’ defense is stellar as well, finishing third in the nation with 31.25 points allowed.

Air Force RB Brad Roberts | Trevor Cokley/Air Force Academy Athletics

Baylor is an interesting opponent for Air Force.

The Bears rank in the top 100 in the following categories: points per game (55th), yards per game (63rd), rushing yards per (62nd), and 3rd down efficiency (79th). Running back Richard Reese has been solid this year, rushing for 962 yards and 14 scores to lead the Bears offense.

Baylor lost by 11 to Texas and just one point to TCU, so the Bears have been able to hang with some of the best in the Big 12—if we take out the 31-3 loss to Kansas State. If the Bears can contain Roberts (not many teams have), they have a shot to win, not to mention the home-field advantage with this game being played in Fort Worth, Texas.

Still, Roberts has been on a tear, and the Falcon defense and rushing attack are nearly impossible to stop.

I’ll go with the Falcons in a close contest.

Prediction: Air Force 20, Baylor 17

Hawai’i BowlSan Diego State vs Middle Tennessee

5:00 p.m. PT, ESPN, , December 24, 2022, Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex, Honolulu, Hawai’i

The MWC matchups for the entire bowl slate are pretty good, minus the Fresno State-Washington State blowout, although it certainly looked better on paper.

The Aztecs face the Blue Raiders on the Island, and that so happens to be where safety-turned-QB Jalen Mayden became a national sensation on October 8.

SDSU suffered a crushing loss to Fresno State on October 29 that ultimately changed the fate of the West Division, and if things were different, they would’ve gone to the MWC title game.

Nonetheless, the Aztecs can cap off an impressive turnaround with a win against the Blue Raiders.

Aztec quarterback Jalen Mayden | SDSU Athletics

Middle Tennessee State was 3-4, but then won four of the last five games—including three in a row to finish the year. They are 59th in the country in passing yards per game (267.2) and will test the Aztecs’ defense often.

Quarterback Chase Cunningham has 2,920 yards with 19 scores for the Blue Raiders, and wide receiver Jaylin Lane leads the team with 829 yards and four scores.

If the Aztec defense comes to play—and the offense scores more than three points in the last game against Air Force—San Diego State gets the win. The 35th-ranked defense in the league in points against (20.17) should be able to contain the Blue Raiders and get the win.

Prediction: San Diego State 27, Middle Tennessee State 17

—More from Matt Wadleigh—