PHOTO: USA Today Sports
Buffalo Bulls (8-4) vs San Diego State Aztecs (7-5)
Saturday, Dec 21st @ 5:30 PM EST
How Buffalo got here: Buffalo started out their season 0-2 with two losses to Baylor and Ohio State by a combined 77 points. After that, the Bulls settled down. After needing multiple overtimes to hold off pesky Stony Brook, they romped UConn 41-12 on their way to seven consecutive wins before losing at the Glass Bowl to Toledo and then to eventual MAC Champ Bowling Green.
How San Diego State got here: Like Buffalo, the Aztecs got off to a rough start to the season as they opened with a 21 point loss to Eastern Illinois. The Aztecs would then drop games to Ohio State and Oregon State before righting the ship and winning seven of nine to close the season. The Aztecs played in four overtime games this season (going 3-1). Their biggest win of the year was a 34-31 OT victory over Boise State.
For Buffalo to win: In their wins this season, Buffalo is averaging 223 yards rushing. In their losses, they are averaging just 68 yards per game. In their four losses, the Bulls also got dominated on the ground by their opposition. For Buffalo, this game is about controlling the line scrimmage. Establish the run on offense and stop it on defense.
For San Diego State to win: In San Diego State's five losses, they lost the turnover battle in four of those five games by a total of 10 turnovers (the other game was a draw against Oregon State in that metric). RB Adam Muema has also not played well in losses. Taking care of the football and making sure that Muema is part of the game plan will be major factors for the Aztecs.
Key Player (Buffalo): Khalil Mack, LB. Mack was named the 2013 MAC Defensive Player of the Year. He has an NCAA record 16 forced fumbles in his career and is a force to be reckoned with. If Mack can disrupt the Aztecs running game and maybe cause a turnover or two, it could turn the tide of this game.
Key Player (SDSU): Quinn Kaehler, QB. A one-time walk-on who started the season on the bench, Kaehler came on against Ohio State in relief and hasn't looked back. Kaehler needs to make good decisions. Offensive Coordinator Bob Toledo will give Kaehler two plays to take to the line of scrimmage and it's his job to make the best play call based on his pre-snap reads. Those reads could be the difference in this game.
Key Stat: The Buffalo Bulls are looking for their first ever bowl win. The Bulls joined Division 1-A (now called the FBS) in 1999. Since that time, the Bulls have only been in one bowl game (this will be their second). They lost that Bowl Game to UConn by 18.