FAMOUS IDAHO POTATO BOWL STORYLINES
1. Will this be Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen’s swan song? The rifled-armed 6-5, 233-pound junior had what many consider a disappointing season, completing just 141-of-251 passes (56.2 percent) for 1,658 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions while also rushing for 207 yards and five scores on 84 carries. Although only an Honorable Mention All-Mountain West pick, Allen comes in at No. 6 on ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.’s top 20 list for 2018 NFL Draft prospects.
2. Will Allen, who missed Wyoming’s final two games after spraining his right shoulder in a 28-14 win at Air Force on Nov. 11, be healthy enough to play? “The shoulder is getting better day to day,” Allen told Wyosports.net on Dec. 5. “I’ve been getting back in the swing of things with some 7-on-7 and some plays in the team sessions the last couple days of practice. It felt good. (The shoulder) still isn’t where I want it to be or it needs to be. There are some throws I still feel some pain, and some I don’t feel anything.” As far as skipping the bowl to avoid the possibility of further injury should he decide to turn pro, Allen said: “If I’m 100 percent, I’m playing in the game. I owe that to this university and to this team.”
3. Which team can avoid turnovers? Both clubs thrived on forcing opponents to turn over the ball, with Central Michigan leading the FBS by creating 31 turnovers while Wyoming was right behind with 30. The Cowboys also had a turnover margin of plus-16, which was second-best in the FBS, while the Chippawas finished at plus-eight.
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ABOUT CENTRAL MICHIGAN (8-4, 6-2 MAC): The Chips, who had a 45-27 nonconference win at Kansas of the Big 12, bounced back from a 3-4 start to earn their fourth straight bowl appearance after finishing second to eventual champ Toledo in the MAC’s West Division. Sophomore running back Jonathan Ward (988 yards, nine touchdowns, 5.9 yards per carry) and senior wide receiver Corey Willis (42 catches, 625 yards, nine TDs) both were All-MAC Second Team picks while senior quarterback Shane Morris finished second in the conference in passing, completing 226-of-407 attempts for 2,908 yards with 26 TDs and 13 interceptions. Senior linebacker Joe Ostman (12 sacks, 18.5 tackles for loss) and defensive backs Amari Coleman (10 passes defended, three interceptions) and Josh Cox (six interceptions) lead a defense that ranks second in the FBS with 19 interceptions.
ABOUT WYOMING (7-5, 5-3 Mountain West): If Allen doesn’t play, it could be a long afternoon for the Cowboys, who ranked 10th in the Mountain West in scoring (22.3 points) and last in rushing (107.8 yards). Backup quarterback Nick Smith struggled, completing just 54.1 percent of his passes (40-of-74) for 471 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in setbacks against Fresno State (13-7) and lowly San Jose State (20-17), which snapped a 10-game losing streak. Wyoming’s defense was one of the best in the conference, allowing just 17.8 points and 332.8 yards while featuring three All-Mountain West First Team picks in defensive linemen Youhanna Ghaifan (five sacks, 13 tackles for loss) and Carl Granderson (7.5 sacks) and safety Andrew Wingard (111 tackles, four interceptions).