WHO: San Diego State (7-5) vs. Ohio (8-4)
WHAT: The second DXL Frisco Bowl
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
WHERE: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
THE SKINNY: It’s not often you should tune in to a game just for the head coaches but this season’s Frisco Bowl presents a delightful matchup between two veterans who have plied their craft steadily and with plenty of success the past two decades. Ohio’s Frank Solich (163) and San Diego State’s Rocky Long (136) have combined for 299 wins at the FBS level and elevated each of their programs to models of success in their respective leagues. Both utilize a familiar formula of playing stout defense and establishing the run so it will be fascinating to see the crafty stalwarts make adjustments and pull out a few surprises against each other under the Wednesday night lights just north of Dallas.
The Aztecs were a tale of two halves in 2018. Following a 6-1 start that included an upset of Pac-12 foe Arizona State, injuries started to mount at key positions (notably veteran QB Christian Chapman) and the team faltered to 1-4 finish. Chapman figures to get the start in this one given that it is the senior’s final game with the team but backup Ryan Agnew could come on if he continues to look out of sync with the offense. No matter who is taking snaps under center, they figure to lean heavily on tailback Juwan Washington — the latest in a long line of terrific rushers at the school.
The Bobcats don’t have any issues at signal-caller thanks to the stellar play of triggerman Nathan Rourke. The QB has accounted for 35 touchdowns this season and is as true a dual-threat as they come in averaging over six yards a carry and over eight yards per attempt. Add in A.J. Ouellette (1,142 yards) and Maleek Irons (831 yards) to the backfield and it’s safe to say that stopping — or at least slowing down — the run game will be a priority for SDSU.
That would probably be the game plan either way for the Aztecs as they sport the No. 4 rush defense in FBS, allowing just 94.5 yards per game on the ground. Linebacker Kyahva Tezino (120 tackles, 8.5 sacks) has been terrific in particular and can impact the game in numerous ways.
One thing is certain, this should be a close and hard-fought game between the two sides. SDSU has played 10 consecutive games decided by single digits and Ohio played in five games decided by a touchdown or less this year. On paper this is one of the better lower tier bowl matchups of 2018 and with a few weeks off to get healthy and prep for the Bobcats, something says the Aztecs can make a key play or two late in order to secure the victory.
THE PICK: San Diego State 24, Ohio 20.