Ohio vs. Nevada: Idaho Potato Bowl preview and picks against the spread

Ohio (6-6) vs. Nevada (7-5)

Location: Boise | When: Jan. 3 (3:30 p.m.) | TV: ESPN | Line: Ohio -7.5

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

Ohio: Ohio had a rough start to the season, going 1-3 in non-conference play. The Bobcats got back on track by winning three of their first four games against MAC competition before dropping home games to Miami and Western Michigan by a combined six points. That put Ohio at 4-6 and on the verge of missing a bowl for the first time since 2014. However, Frank Solich’s team closed out the year with back-to-back victories to get to the six-win mark. 

Nevada: Nevada started the season by going 3-1, including an epic comeback victory over Purdue in Week 1. There was a bit of a lull in the weeks that followed. The Wolf Pack went 1-3 to start Mountain West play as the coaching staff shuffled quarterbacks, including a brief stint with Malik Henry (of Last Chance U fame) as the starter. The coaches eventually went back to Carson Strong and were able to win three of their final four games to clinch a winning record. Nevada did end up losing the season finale to UNLV, an overtime game that had an all-out brawl after the final whistle sounded. Multiple players are suspended due to the fight. 

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

This is the only football game of the day. The NFL playoffs start the following day and all but two of the bowl games will have been played, so what’s better than watching a MAC vs. Mountain West matchup on the blue turf in Boise?

Also, you’ll get to see silly stuff like this:

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Ohio DB Javon Hagan: Hagan has been a starter at safety for the Bobcats for the past four seasons, so this will be his final game in an Ohio uniform. He has earned All-MAC honors the past three seasons, including being selected to the first team the last two years. Over his four years starting, Hagan has compiled a whopping 313 tackles, 26 passes defended, seven forced fumbles and six interceptions. 

Nevada DL Dom Peterson: After redshirting his first year on campus, Dom Peterson has been one of the best players on the Nevada defense the last two seasons. Peterson totaled 44 tackles, 10.5 sacks for loss and three sacks as a freshman starter at defensive tackle. This year, he moved to defensive end and has been even more disruptive. Entering the bowl game, Peterson has 36 tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He earned first-team All-Mountain West honors this year. 

75-year-old Frank Solich is in his 15th season at Ohio. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT

Ohio QB Nathan Rourke: If there’s one bowl to skip from an NFL draft perspective, it’s probably this one — at least for the 2020 draft. The Wolf Pack have a few young defenders worth keeping an eye on for future years, and their task will be to slow down the Bobcats’ dual-threat QB. Rourke has a funky throwing delivery, but it’s oddly effective at times, and he’s an even better runner, able to shimmy defenders and break tackles. Some NFL scouts will eye his workouts and consider Rourke for a position switch possibly. He wants to give quarterback a go, however, and could receive an NFL camp invite, but the Ontario-born Rourke is very high on CFL scouts’ lists, too.

- Eric Edholm

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

Ohio: Ohio has been remarkably consistent during the 15-year tenure of Frank Solich. During that span, the Bobcats have had just two losing seasons — in 2005 and 2008. A win over Nevada would extend a streak of seasons without a losing record to 11 (Ohio did go 6-6 in 2014). A win would also give Ohio a third straight bowl victory. The Bobcats won the Bahamas Bowl in 2017 and the Frisco Bowl in 2018. 

Nevada: Jay Norvell hasn’t gotten Nevada back to a level of competitiveness very quickly. The Wolf Pack went 3-9 in his first year before making the jump to 8-5 last year. It was the first time Nevada had eight wins in a season since 2010. A win over Ohio would get the Wolf Pack to 8-5 with a bowl win in back-to-back seasons. 

PICKS

Nick Bromberg: Nevada +7.5

Sam Cooper: Ohio -7.5

Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast

Pat Forde: Nevada +7.5

Pete Thamel: Nevada +7.5

Dan Wetzel: Ohio -7.5

Sean Sullivan: Ohio -7.5

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