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Brad Rock: Potato Bowl has charm of its own

Published: Friday, Dec. 14 2012 3:00 p.m. MST

Utah State fan Kevan Smith tailgates prior to the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho Saturday, Dec. 17, 2011.

Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

BOISE – As Kurt Kragthorpe, a colleague of mine once noted, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl is the only bowl with sour cream and chives in the logo.

That has to count for something.

Now, if someone would just add bacon bits, it might be my favorite bowl.

Utah State plays Saturday in its second consecutive Potato Bowl at Bronco Stadium, home of Boise State. It's also home of the lowest-paying, arguably least glamorous bowl game in America. According to published reports, the FIPB pays $650,000 per team, slightly less than the New Mexico Bowl. By comparison, the Orange Bowl pays $17 million.

Oranges, roses and sugar are all fine bowl themes, and a lot sexier than potatoes, but the humble tuber is OK by me. Who wouldn't want to play in a bowl game that bills itself as "the nation's longest-running outdoor cold-weather bowl"?

OK, Alabama, to name one.

But still.

Considering the Potato Bowl is a drivable distance for Aggie fans and players, and it gets the team on TV, there's nothing to lose. USU was just five points away from a possible Orange Bowl bid, but there's no reason to risk going nowhere. Louisiana Tech stalled on an invitation to the Independence Bowl, expecting something better, but it never happened. The Bulldogs are home for the holidays with a 9-3 record.

Meanwhile, the Aggies are back in the postseason business. If you ask them, they'll tell you they're thrilled to be in Boise. That may not be entirely true, but it's their story and they're sticking by it.

"Trust me," said Aggie coach Gary Andersen, "I've never been to a bowl game and said, 'Boy, that was a bad bowl game.' That has never happened to me. I'm grateful and the kids are. Our experience last year was as good a bowl experience as I've ever had."

That's a leap, considering Andersen was part of the Utah teams that played in the Sugar and Fiesta bowls.

Realistically, there aren't a lot of bowl things to do in Boise in winter. There's no trip down Bourbon Street (Sugar), no mega-parade (Rose) and not even lunch on the U.S.S. Midway (Poinsettia, Holiday). The high point of the week is the cart racing and bowling excursions.

You know it's a low-key bowl game when the website features a wide shot of potato fields. There are no swaying Miami palms, or even Las Vegas hotels in the picture. So it's not surprising that Toledo fans had purchased just 300 tickets, as of Wednesday. Late notification and expensive travel combined to keep the numbers low.

But what I like about Saturday's Potato Bowl is that it's unpretentious. There are no huge banquets or golf outings on game week; nobody wearing a yellow bowl jacket, either.

"It's organized unbelievably well," Andersen said.

It sure is. Straight and true, just like potato rows.

It's also a glorified regular season game. There's nothing wrong with that, if you ask me.

"I had a good time last year; I enjoyed it," said USU running back Kerwynn Williams. "It was my first bowl game and I had a good time."

The game was originally named the Humanitarian Bowl and conceived as a way to further the Boise State program. The first game, though, featured Utah State playing Cincinnati (a 35-19 Bearcat win). Boise State played in four of the games, but eventually moved on to bigger bowls. It also switched to the Mountain West/Big East, neither of which has a tie-in with the Potato Bowl.

Nearby University of Idaho is now a football independent and is rarely bowl-eligible anyway, although it did play once in the Humanitarian Bowl.

Some speculated this might be the final fling for the Potato Bowl, since the WAC is shutting down football. But the bowl announced on Friday that it had a new agreement with the Mountain West. That's good news for me. There's something about a bowl game just up the road that I like.

In honor, I'm ordering the 'tater skins appetizer for lunch.

email: rock@desnews.com; Twitter: therockmonster; Facebook: rockmonsterunplugged

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