MWC Championship Football

Utah State head coach Blake Anderson holds up the trophy after the Aggies defeated San Diego State for the Mountain West Conference Championship.

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Calvin Tyler's first bowl experience should be extra memorable.

That's because the Utah State running back will be playing against his former team in two weeks. USU found out Sunday it will be squaring off against Oregon State in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl, which will take place on Saturday, Dec. 18, at 5:30 p.m. at SoFi Stadium, home of the Los Angles Rams and Chargers.

Tyler Jr., who leads the Aggies in rushing yards (764) and rushing touchdowns (six) this season, played for the Beavers from 2017-20. The native of Beaumont, Texas, appeared in 14 career games for OSU and gained 124 yards on 30 carries.

This will be Oregon State's first bowl appearance since 2013 and 18th overall. Meanwhile, USU will be competing in its ninth bowl game in the past 11 years and 15th overall.

"We are beyond excited for this team to get the opportunity to play one more game," said first-year USU head coach Blake Anderson in a press release. "I am so proud of what our players and staff have accomplished, and I can’t think of a better way to celebrate this unbelievable season than by representing the Mountain West as its conference champion in the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl."

This will be just USU's second-ever matchup against a Power 5 Conference opponent in a bowl game. The Aggies lost to Baylor, 24-9, in the 1961 Gotham Bowl.

"On behalf of Utah State University, we are thrilled to represent the Mountain West as conference champions against an outstanding opponent in the 2021 Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl”, said USU Vice President and Director of Athletics John Hartwell in a press release. "I'm excited for our student-athletes to experience another bowl game and we look forward to the hospitality of Southern California."

This will only be USU's fourth matchup against OSU in its 124-year history. The Aggies are 0-3 all-time against the Beavers and the last meeting was in 1998. OSU defeated USU in one-possession games in 1997 and '98.

The Aggies (10-3) and Beavers have two common opponents this season in Washington State and Hawaii. USU beat WSU 26-23 on the road and Hawaii 51-31 at home, while OSU dispatched of Hawaii 45-27 at home and lost to WSU 31-24 on the road.

The Beavers went 6-0 at home during the 2021 campaign, but 1-5 on the road. Conversely, the Aggies are undefeated on the road (7-0), but split their six games at Maverik Stadium.

Oregon State went 7-5 during the regular season, including 5-4 in Pac-12 Conference action. The Beavers finished in third place out of six teams in the Pac-12's North Division.

It's been a solid season for the Beavers, who were triumphant against Pac-12 champion and Rowl Bowl-bound Utah and against a 8-4 Arizona State squad. Four of OSU's five loses have been by nine or fewer points and none of them by more than 14 points. The Beavers do, however, have a pair of losses to teams with losing records in Cal (5-7) and Colorado (4-8), so it's also been an uneven season for the Corvallis-based program.

The Beavers have been pretty explosive on offense this season as they have averaged 32.75 points and 430.5 yards an outing. OSU is also balanced on offense as it is averaging 217.4 yards per game on the ground and 213.1 through the air.

Oregon State has struggled at times defensively, though, as opponents have averaged 25.92 ppg and 387.8 ypg. The Beavers will surely be tested by USU quarterback Logan Bonner, who is only seven yards away from matching Jordan Love's single-season record for passing yards (3,567), plus he's the single-season program record-holder in touchdown tosses with 36. OSU has given up 20 TD passes and nearly 250 ypg through the air.

The Beavers are led offensively by running back B.J. Baylor, who has put together a breakout season. The 5-foot-11, 205-pounder has contributed with an impressive 1,259 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, and he's averaging 6.0 yards per carry. Baylor only gained 381 yards in his previous three seasons at OSU.

OSU quarterback Chance Nolan has completed 63.5 percent of his passes in '21 for 2,414 yards and 19 touchdowns, vs. nine interceptions. Nolan threw for 547 yards and six scores in four games -- three times he was the starter -- in the COVID-19 shortened season of 2020.

Nolan's top target in the passing game has been the 6-0, 184-pound Trevon Bradford, who leads the team in receptions (40), receiving yards (606) and TD catches (five). Tre-Shaun Harrison ranks second on the team in all three categories as he has chipped in with 25 catches for 346 yards and a trio of scores.

Eight Oregon State players have hauled in between 16-40 receptions this fall. Bradford entered the season with 1,273 yards on 109 receptions.

The Beavers have an outstanding 1-2 punch at the inside linebacker position in Avery Roberts and Omar Speights, who are their two top tacklers. Roberts was a first-team all-conference selection a year ago, while Speights was an honorable mention honoree.

Roberts has accumulated an impressive 128 tackles this season, including a team-best 9.5 for a loss. Speights has chipped in with 80 tackles and a pair of interceptions. Three other OSU players have picked off two passes this season.

The Beavers haven't been very effective rushing the quarterback as they only have 16.0 sacks this season -- compared to 28.0 for the Aggies -- but they have only allowed 10.0 sacks, compared to USU's 28.0. Oregon State is even this season in turnover margin as it has 16 takeaways (13 INTs, three fumble recoveries) and 16 giveaways (11 INTs, five fumbles).

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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