- Time and date: Saturday, December 17 at 9:15 p.m. ET / 8:15 p.m. CT
- Network: ESPN
- Location: Toyota Stadium — Frisco, TX
- Spread: Boise State (-10), per DraftKings
- Over/under: 56.5, per DraftKings
- North Texas money line: +320, per DraftKings
- Boise State money line: -390, per DraftKings
- All-time series: Series tied, 3-3
- Last meeting: Boise State 59, North Texas 0 — October 21, 2000
- Current streak: Boise State, 1 (2000)
- North Texas last bowl: 2021 Frisco Football Classic, 27-24 loss to Miami (OH)
- Boise State last bowl: 2021 Las Vegas Bowl, 38-7 loss to Washington
- 2021 Frisco Bowl matchup: San Diego State 38, UTSA 24
* Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
Setting the scene
Saturday features the largest bowl slate of 2022 with six games on the docket. Concluding the busiest Saturday of college football for the remainder of 2022 is one of college football’s newer bowl games in Frisco, TX, a suburb of the Dallas metroplex — one of five bowls which features a clash of conference championship game participants.
Attendance should certainly favor the hometown North Texas Mean Green (7-6, 6-2 C-USA), which are located roughly 30 minutes west of Frisco. But the C-USA runner-up is disadvantaged in other areas headed into its 2022 finale. Two days after falling to UTSA in the conference championship game, 48-27, North Texas fired seven-year head coach Seth Littrell. Thus, the Mean Green will operate under the direction of defensive coordinator Phil Bennett, who assumes interim coaching duties to wrap up the season. Under Bennett, North Texas aims to snap a 5-game bowl skid and claim its first postseason hardware since 2013.
On the other sideline stands the Boise State Broncos (9-4, 8-0 Mountain West), which swept through its league in the regular season before suffering a similar fate to North Texas in the conference championship. Powering through a rocky start, the Broncos clinched their 25th consecutive winning season. But despite their winning ways, Boise State only participated in one bowl game in the prior four seasons. Horrendous luck has been on the Broncos’ side, which saw their 2018 First Responder Bowl axed due to lightning, their 2021 Arizona Bowl canceled due to COVID-19, and no bowl game in an abbreviated 2020 campaign. With second-year head coach Andy Avalos leading the charge, Boise State seeks its first bowl victory since 2017 in Frisco.
North Texas Mean Green outlook
Experiencing a head coaching change between a conference championship and bowl can certainly lead to mixed results. We’ve seen extreme situations like North Texas’ 2018 New Mexico Bowl, where Utah State pulverized the Mean Green 52-13 with only four coaches present on the sideline. In this situation, only Littrell — who held the role as the offensive play-caller — was ousted, so the rest of the coaching staff remains similar for the time being.
But offense is the strength of this North Texas squad. The team ranks 29th in the FBS in scoring at a respectable 33.9 points per game and 20th in yardage with 464 yards per game. The Mean Green feature one of the premier run games in the country with a top 20 rushing average, and they passed with proficiency too, generating enough yardage to rank 36th in the nation through the air.
This is expected to be the final game for junior quarterback Austin Aune, who is slated to enter his name for the NFL Draft following the Frisco Bowl. At age 29, Aune is the oldest starting quarterback in college football, earning that status due to a professional baseball career that preceded his time in Denton. While he showed mobile tendencies prior to 2022, Aune mainly operates from the pocket now and the longtime Mean Green gunslinger is vying for his sixth 300-yard game of the season against a stout Bronco pass defense.
Aune’s aerial capacity is a luxury to have, especially when North Texas produces impressive rushing numbers. The Mean Green trot out a stable of running backs, ranging from Ikaika Ragsdale and Isaiah Johnson — who share a 6’0”, 216 pound frame — to Ayo Adeyi, a slippery 5’7” sophomore who returned from a month-long hiatus for the C-USA title game. Of these tailbacks, Adeyi comes with the most explosive potential with a knack for breakaway runs. His 7.6 rushing average is indicative of his home run playmaking ability, and that trait should be on full display when rotating with Johnson and Ragsdale — the latter of which is fresh off consecutive 100-yard games.
The receiving corps is primarily bolstered by the tandem of Roderic Burns and Jyaire Shorter, who are both well-seasoned veterans in Denton. And as suggested by their respective receiving averages of 17.6 and 27.2, North Texas enjoys taking frequent deep shots in the passing game. Shorter is the recipient of a team-high 10 touchdowns this year, with a significant portion stemming from 50 yards out. But the Mean Green’s receiving room runs very deep in downfield playmakers. Freshman Jay Maclin, the cousin of former NFL standout Jeremy Maclin, is no stranger to deep post and fly routes either, and the budding star hauled in 16 receptions for 380 yards this year.
All of this offensive success is possible due to the presence of the C-USA’s best offensive line, a unit which is one of nine in the FBS to allow under one sack per game, all while paving praiseworthy paths for the run game. So with North Texas’ good-to-great rankings in virtually every offensive category — and a reliable kicking game — why is this team 7-6?
North Texas ranks bottom 25 in both run defense and pass defense alike. Overall, it creates the eighth worst defense in terms of yards allowed per game in the FBS — the only one in the bottom 13 with a winning record. The Mean Green allowed 40 points or greater in five of their six losses, but on the other hand, they scored 40 themselves in five of seven victories. Thus, this team is best built to survive in shootouts rather than defensive slugfests — perfectly contrasting with defensive-minded Boise State.
Amidst questionable team defensive numbers, one thing is certain: there are several individual studs on this defense. Most notable among them is two-time First Team All-C-USA middle linebacker K.D. Davis, who leads the C-USA in tackling for the second consecutive year with 132. The program’s all-time leading tackler is a fearsome hitter around the line of scrimmage, and he enters Saturday fresh off a 14-tackle performance at UTSA. Cornerback Ridge Texada, a Frisco native, also earned First Team All-C-USA honors with three interceptions and 15 pass deflections — the fourth most in the FBS — so his active hands should play a factor in his hometown. Wrapping up the all-conference selections on the defense is outside linebacker Mazin Richards, who magnificently filled in North Texas’ void for a pass rusher with 7.5 sacks and 12.5 tackles on the season.
Boise State Broncos outlook
Boise State quietly skated through its Mountain West schedule with an 8-0 record. But an 0-3 showing against FBS non-conference opponents prevented the Broncos from getting the national recognition in the polls they became accustomed to during the Chris Petersen and Bryan Harsin eras. Boise State fell short of its first conference title since 2019 as turnovers and a Fresno State punt return touchdown allowed the Bulldogs to prevail.
But the Broncos can still put the finishing touches on what could be their 18th double-digit win season since 1999 — which is especially impressive considering offensive coordinator Tim Plough was fired and starting quarterback Hank Bachmeier hit the transfer portal after an alarming Week 4 loss to UTEP. Boise State’s calling card is its defense, but ever since that moment, the Broncos offense took an unexpected turn for the better.
Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter took the offensive coordinator duties and improved the unit from generating 22 points per game in its first four outings to 32.2 in its last nine. The Broncos dropped 40 points on four different Mountain West opponents under the direction of Koetter and first-year starting quarterback Taylen Green. Posting 300-yard outings isn’t exactly the norm for the redshirt freshman, who exceeded 230 passing yards once in 2022. But what Green offers is efficient decision-making, as demonstrated by his 10-to-0 touchdown-to-interception ratio in his final five regular season starts, and a dynamic running ability. Green exceeded the century mark as a runner in two games this year and enters Frisco amounting to 6.8 yards per carry.
Boise State’s rushing game is an integral part of its offense with the conductor being junior George Holani. The tenured Bronco crossed the 1,000-yard barrier as a freshman in 2019 and he passed it once again after six 100-yard performances this fall. Defenses don’t typically have answers for Holani either, and the running back has only been limited below 5.0 yards per carry once since Koetter assumed the offensive coordinator position. True freshman Ashton Jeanty will be in the mix as a well-utilized second fiddle, as the 600-yard rusher earned double-digit carries in over half of the Broncos’ games this year.
Not one Boise State receiver obtained 500 receiving yards this year, which shows (a) the Broncos’ proclivity toward their their 38th ranked rushing offense as opposed to their 109th ranked passing unit, and (b) the even distribution of Green’s targets. Latrell Caples and Billy Bowens are among the clubhouse leaders with four touchdowns each and 462 and 449 receiving yards, respectively. The majority of other targets should trend in the direction of Stefan Cobbs and tight end Riley Smith, but the aforementioned running backs are also recurring weapons in this facet of the offense.
Similar to North Texas, the Broncos’ offense operates behind one of the more potent lines in the FBS. The only Mountain West squad allowing fewer than Boise State’s 1.08 sacks per game is Air Force which runs a triple option based offense. Still, defense is where the 2022 Broncos make their presence most felt. They rank 11th in fewest points yielded at 18.5 per game, while excelling in containing both the run and pass. Boise State fields the 24th best run defense in the FBS at 121 yards per game and the fifth strongest pass defense at 161. The only five teams that surrender fewer yards on a national basis are four Big Ten teams and Air Force.
It’s impossible to watch Boise State’s defense without noticing strong safety JL Skinner. The future NFL prospect is simply everywhere on the field, all at once. A First Team All-Mountain West selection, Skinner exhibits a 2022 stat-line of 65 tackles, four interceptions, and five pass breakups. And the excellent zone coverage he provides doesn’t quite show up in the box score, but it’s certainly welcome in the Broncos’ elite pass defense.
Another Bronco contributing to minimize North Texas’ scoring effort is weakside linebacker DJ Schramm, who serves as the team-leader in tackles with 99. The breakout player is one of four Boise State all-conference defenders, and with 12 tackles for loss on the season, he’ll play a vital role in limiting North Texas’ high-powered, versatile run game.
The spread is currently at double-digits in the Frisco Bowl, but this matchup between conference runners-up seems closer than 10 points. Boise State’s defense is an elite unit, but the Broncos haven’t faced an offense quite as explosive as North Texas this year. The closest comparison in terms of yards per game is BYU, which was the lone regular season game the Broncos lost following September. Thus, with a viable running back rotation and explosive passing offense, North Texas should be able to position itself in scoring position more than the typical Boise State opponent does.
However, the Broncos offer enough resistance and a potent enough offensive attack to gain the upper hand. North Texas’ inconsistent run defense must find an answer to not only George Holani, but a dynamic mobile quarterback in Taylen Green — and countering quarterback mobility was shown to be a weakness in the C-USA Championship Game. The Mean Green are capable of winning this one in shootout form, but Boise State should prevail in Frisco due to its relentless defense and routine success against opposing passing attacks.
Prediction: Boise State 27, North Texas 23