The 2018 Cheez-It Bowl was one to remember — but not for the reason you might expect.
TCU beat Cal 10-7, in overtime, in a game in which the two teams combined to throw nine interceptions, which equaled their combined number of third down conversions (9-of-31). TCU won despite having just 28 passing yards with an average of 1.3 yards per pass attempt. On one sequence in the first half, four consecutive drives in the game ended with an interception.
It was competitive and compelling even if it wasn't necessarily well-played and that alone should help drive interest for the 2019 Cheez-It Bowl between Air Force (10-2) and Washington State (6-6).
The game kicks off at 10:15 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec.27, on ESPN and WatchESPN. Find the game time, television info, preview and prediction below.
Air Force vs. Washington State: Cheez-It Bowl Preview
This year's matchup is certainly one with a contrast of styles, which could lead to another Cheez-It Bowl filled with some odd statistical performances. Air Force is third nationally in rushing yards per game (292 yards/game), while Washington State is second-to-last nationally (72 yards/game). The Cougars lead the country with 444 passing yards per game and Air Force is 124th nationally (131 yards/game).
So both offenses are capable of moving the chains but they do so very differently.
Both teams are ranked in the top 25 in the country in points per game (Washington State at 39.2 and Air Force at 34.3) so the 2019 Cheez-It Bowl could potentially be a shootout where the Cougars throw the ball all over the field and the Falcons run wild, giving it the potential to be one of the most entertaining bowl games to watch this season.
Air Force has won seven games in a row and its only losses this season were on the road at Mountain West champion Boise State and at Navy (10-2). The Falcons have had roughly a 6:1 run-to-pass ratio this season, which is how a team winds up third in rushing and 124th in passing yards per game.
Running back Kadin Remsberg leads the team with 872 rushing yards and seven touchdowns but he's one of four players with at least 100 carries this season, along with fullbacks Timothy Jackson and Taven Birdow, and quarterback Donald Hammond III, who has a team-high 11 rushing touchdowns.
But Air Force isn't afraid to throw the ball more often that most service academies and triple-option teams do.
They're not afraid to run trick plays out of the triple option, either.
Them: The triple option is boring— Air Force Football (@AF_Football) November 30, 2019
Hammond has thrown for 1,286 passing yards, 13 touchdowns and five interceptions this season with more than half of his completions going to wide receiver Geraud Sanders, who has 29 catches for 736 yards and seven touchdowns.
While many triple-option teams don't have the ability to move the ball through the air if they have to try to run a two-minute drill or play from behind, Air Force does. Throwing the ball certainly isn't an issue for Washington State, either.
Cougars quarterback Anthony Gordon has thrown the ball at least 60 times in a game on five occasions this season, including each of Washington State's last five games. Gordon is the national leader in passing yards with 5,228 yards on the season — roughly 500 more than Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow.
That's what has allowed the Cougars to have seven players with at least 500 receiving yards, each of whom has at least 40 receptions and four receiving touchdowns, led by the duo of Brandon Arconado (67 receptions for 942 yards and six touchdowns) and Easop Winston Jr. (80 receptions for 927 yards and 11 touchdowns).
All-purpose running back Max Borghi leads the team with 81 receptions and while Washington State has just 202 rush attempts on the season, Borghi is responsible for 121 of them for 790 yards and 11 rushing touchdowns, so it's not as if Washington State is incapable of running the football. It often just chooses not to.
In boxing, they say that styles make fights and the contrasting styles of Air Force and Washington State should lead to another entertaining Cheez-It Bowl, albeit one that's likely going to be much, much higher-scoring than its predecessor.
Air Force vs. Washington State: Prediction
Air Force 37, Washington State, 34