2ndDXL Frisco Bowl
San Diego State (7-5) vs. Ohio (8-4)
December 19, 7 p.m., Toyota Stadium, Frisco, TX
By Troy Phillips
As relocating and re-launching a bowl game went, everything appeared to be on point a year ago.
The venue, Toyota Stadium in Frisco, was just what the new DXL Frisco Bowl needed to join the bowl-fertile North Texas region and leave its former incarnation – the Miami Beach Bowl – behind.
Bustling city Frisco itself offered up all the built-in entertainment and hospitality a bowl locale needed to roll out its welcome mat. But ultimately the game didn’t provide a wow-factor on the field (Louisiana Tech 51, SMU 10).
Bowl matchups are rarely predictable, but DXL Frisco Bowl officials hope Year Two gives the event its first nail-biter when San Diego State (7-5) meets Ohio (8-4) at Toyota Stadium on Dec. 19 at 7 p.m. ESPN has the telecast.
Because undefeated Central Florida gained admission to a New Year’s Six bowl (Fiesta), the American Athletic Conference couldn’t contractually provide the DXL Frisco with a bowl-eligible team, making SDSU and Ohio an at-large versus at-large matchup.
As for the optics that lead one to anticipate a worthy clash, SDSU made a school-record ninth consecutive bowl game. The Aztecs have won 39 games in the past three seasons. They don’t have last year’s NCAA rushing leader Rashaad Penny, but his former backup, Juwan Washington, averages 108.8 yards rushing per game. SDSU finished 20thin the FBS in total defense (327.4 ypg).
Led by veteran coach Rocky Long, SDSU tangled earlier this season with another outfit from the Mid-American Conference, trading blows with Eastern Michigan and pulling out a 23-20 victory in overtime.
“As a program, we are excited for the chance to play in the Frisco Bowl for the first time, Long said. “We are thankful that we will have one more opportunity to send the seniors out on a high note. Ohio will be a great opponent and we expect a good game.”
In a way, the Aztecs represent an embarrassment of riches in the Mountain West. The conference has only four contractual bowl partners, but seven teams finished bowl-eligible. SDSU and Boise State received at-large postseason berths. Wyoming was one of four FBS teams with six wins left out.
Ohio has won at least eight games for the ninth time under 14th-year (and former Nebraska) coach Frank Solich, and is bowl eligible for the 10thconsecutive year.
“We are excited to take our team down to the great football state of Texas for the Frisco Bowl,” Solich said. “San Diego State will be a challenging opponent, and it should be an excellent matchup. There is a great group of Ohio alumni in Texas, and we hope to see them at the game cheering us on.”
The Bobcats lack the exposure of familiar names but placed six players on the 2018 MAC first team, their most since 1968.
It took time, but Solich brought sound football to Ohio U. This season, his team is fifth in the FBS in turnover margin (1.08), eighth in rushing offense (262.2 ypg), ninth in third-down conversion percentage (48.3), 10thin time of possession (33:27) and 17thin total offense (470.6 ypg).
Ohio’s four losses are by 14 to Virginia, four to Cincinnati, three to MAC champ Northern Illinois and two to rival Miami (Ohio). The Bobcats waxed MAC runner-up Buffalo 52-17.
On paper, it all looks well and fine. The conjectural signs seem there to make the second DXL Frisco Bowl its, well, best yet. Signs the DXL Frisco Bowl hopes become hard evidence.
Troy Phillips is a Fort Worth-based freelance writer and former reporter and copy editor for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.