Oregon State and Utah State will meet in the inaugural Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl Saturday at SoFi Stadium, with the Aggies seeking to complete one of college football’s best turnarounds under first-year coach Blake Anderson.
Anderson was hired as Utah State’s coach Dec. 12, 2020, replacing Gary Andersen, who was fired Nov. 7, 2020, after the team started 0-3. The Aggies’ nine-game improvement from 2020, when they were 1-5, matches Baylor and Northern Illinois as the second-best among Football Bowl Subdivision teams, behind Michigan, which has a 10-game improvement.
Utah State (10-3) qualified for the game by defeating San Diego State, 46-13, in the Mountain West Football Championship Game on Dec. 4 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson. Bowl organizers had the fifth choice among Pac-12 teams and selected Oregon State (7-5) as the Aggies’ opponent.
Utah State just missed reaching the final pre-bowl Associated Press Top 25, receiving 109 voting points, 20 behind 25th-ranked Kentucky. Oregon State did not receive any votes.
The Aggies have won seven of their last eight games. The Beavers have lost three of their last five.
The teams have two common opponents — Hawaii and Washington State. Utah State opened its season with a 26-23 victory over Washington State on Sept. 4 and defeated Hawaii, 51-31, on Oct. 30. Oregon State defeated Hawaii, 45-27, on Sept. 11, and lost to Washington State, 31-24, on Oct. 9.
Aggies quarterback Logan Bonner is 18th among Football Bowl Subdivision players in passing yards per game, averaging 273.8. His favorite target is Deven Thompkins, third in receiving yards per game at 122.2.
Oregon State running back B.J. Baylor is 14th in rushing yards per game, averaging 104.83, including a career-high 158 in a 45-27 victory over USC, the Beavers’ first win over the Trojans at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum since 1960.
The Oregon State offensive line is among four finalists for the Joe Moore Award, given to college football’s top offensive line. The other finalists are Michigan, Kentucky and Air Force.
Defensive back Alex Austin is among 10 Beavers to have played high school football in Los Angeles County. The Long Beach Poly alumnus was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention selection. He is a son of Long Beach Councilman Al Austin II.
Oregon State coach Jonathan Smith is a 1997 graduate of Glendora High.
Starting defensive tackle Marcus Moore is among the nine Aggies to have played high school football in Los Angeles County. The graduate of Crespi High School in Encino played 17 games for UCLA in 2017 and 2018, starting three. He graduated from UCLA with a degree in African American studies in the fall of 2019 and is pursuing a master’s degree in physical and sport education.
Oregon State will be playing in a bowl game for the first time since 2013 when it defeated Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl. The Beavers are 11-6 in bowl play, including winning five consecutive bowl games from 2003-08.
Utah State will be playing in a bowl for the ninth time in 11 years after playing in six in its first 119 seasons. The Aggies are 5-9 in bowl play.
Oregon State leads the series 3-0 with victories in 1904, 1997 and 1998.
This will be the first college football game at SoFi Stadium, which opened in 2020 and is the home of the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams and Los Angeles Chargers. The bowl game was supposed to make its debut last year, but was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is the first bowl game to be named for a living person.
The Will Rogers Bowl was played in Oklahoma City on New Year’s Day, 1947, named in honor of the Oklahoma-born humorist killed in a 1935 plane crash. Pepperdine defeated Nebraska Wesleyan, 38-13, in a game attended by 800 people on a day a snowstorm hit Oklahoma City just before the game. The game was discontinued after its inaugural edition.
What had been the John Hancock Sun Bowl from 1986-88 was known as the John Hancock Bowl from 1989-93.
The El Paso, Texas-based game did not directly honor the first signer of the Declaration of Independence. Its title sponsor, John Hancock Financial, negotiated renewal of its sponsorship agreement to include a new name that would get more national media mentions to justify the expense.
The naming of the Los Angeles game was the result of what organizers described as “an unprecedented multi-year partnership” between Kimmel and SoFi Stadium. Financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed.
The game will be televised by ABC, which also airs Kimmel’s late-night talk show, “Jimmy Kimmel Live!” Both teams attended tapings of the program this week.
Kimmel was also the inspiration of the game’s costumed mascot, Jimmy Kamel.
Instead of trophies, the winning team and offensive and defensive MVPs will receive what are described as “big, bold belts.”
The “Jimmy Kimmel Sandwich” will be available to fans at the game. It includes roast beef, provolone piccante, spicy peppers, pepperoni, shaved red onions, red wine vinaigrette, dried Sicilian oregano, olive oil, and salt and pepper between two slices of ciabatta bread.
The 4:30 p.m. game will be preceded by a 2 p.m. Fan Fest next to stadium that will feature Secret Walls, which showcases the art of competition with a live illustration battle between local artists curated to music by DJ Vick One. The fan fest also include food trucks, both teams’ cheerleaders and bands.
Tickets for the game are priced from $32 and can be purchased at www.SoFiStadium.com/LABowl.