Date: Dec. 22, 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Location: Albertsons Stadium | Boise, Idaho
Best moment: The Vandals were 15-point underdogs to UNLV but instead went into Las Vegas and came away with a 33-30 overtime win. ESPN’s Football Power Index gave the Vandals only a 13.4 percent chance to win at kickoff, but they jumped out to a 10-0 lead and trailed only once (in overtime) before an 11-yard touchdown pass from Matt Linehan to Callen Hightower gave them the win.
Lowest moment: The Vandals weren’t expected to win by any stretch (and were massive underdogs) but took beatings from Washington and Washington State in consecutive weeks, losing to the Pac-12 pair by a combined score of 115-20.
Key player: Defensive end Aikeem Coleman is fourth in the Sun Belt in sacks (eight) and has 11 tackles for loss (both statistics lead the team). He also has 40 tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery and two pass breakups this season.
Motivation level: The Vandals don’t have much time left in the FBS (it was announced this spring that they’ll be moving to the Big Sky Conference in the FCS in 2018), so every bowl opportunity is a big one. This will be only the third bowl appearance in program history, so they’ll be plenty motivated. -- Sam Khan Jr.
Colorado State Rams
Best moment: The Rams are peaking at the right time. They shellacked Mountain West leader San Diego State 63-31 on the road to close the regular season on a high note, crossing that 60-point plateau just after the third quarter ended. This was a true muscle-flexing, one in which the Rams made a statement in all phases of the game.
Lowest moment: The Rams led 14-3 against Wyoming back in Week 5, but then slipped to allow a 35-3 Cowboys run to end the game. Wyoming beat Colorado State 38-17, dropping the Rams to 2-3 on the young season. That was the nadir: The Rams have won five games and suffered only two close losses since.
Key player: Colorado State is remarkably balanced offensively, so their key talent comes on the other side of the ball, where linebacker Kevin Davis has been a statistical machine. He leads the team with 101 stops, 9.5 tackles for loss and three sacks. Davis also has defended three passes, intercepted one and forced four fumbles.
Motivation level: High. The Rams’ blowout over San Diego State has them thinking they’re the best team in the Mountain West right now, and they’d like to prove that in the bowl season since they didn’t have a chance to play in the conference title game. Fifteen starters return in 2017, so this is a chance to build for next season. -- David Lombardi