BOISE, Idaho (AP) Buffalo coach Jeff Quinn doesn't need any reminders about what's at stake Saturday against San Diego State in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
For Quinn, who took over the program four years ago, it's all about getting the school's first bowl victory, changing history and putting the Bulls (8-4, 6-2 Mid-American) on a different trajectory.
"And for our senior class, this has been four years in the making," said Quinn, who guided the team to its most wins in a season since Buffalo joined the FBS in 1999.
"As we continue to go into the offseason, I think any football coach wants to leave ... and along with the football players, they want to leave the field the right way. To go into the offseason with the kind of momentum a win would give you is a tremendous lift."
San Diego State (7-5, 6-2 Mountain West) is playing in its fourth straight bowl game, the longest streak in school history. But it earned its trip to the high desert in southwest Idaho by turning around a season that started with three consecutive losses.
The nonconference schedule offered the Aztecs no early favors. They were routed by Ohio State in Week 2 and edged by Oregon State at home the following week. But the Aztecs have proved resilient.
They closed winning seven of nine, taking three of those games in overtime. Eight of their games were decided by seven points or less, and in five of their victories, they overcame deficits in the fourth quarter.
"Starting out poorly, when we didn't anticipate starting out like that, I think that was hard on everybody," third-year coach Rocky Long said. "From there on out we never played when we beat anybody badly, every game we played was close.
"Being able to win that many close games to put us in a position to come to a bowl game ... I've never seen a team that was that mentally tough. It's a team that fights to the end no matter what the situation is."
Here are five things to watch:
TURNOVERS: Buffalo has thrived on thievery all season and used those opportunities to put points on the board. On defense, the Bulls have 27 turnovers and the team is fourth in the nation in turnover margin at 1.3. Of those 27 turnovers, the offense has converted on 19 for 113 points. Linebacker Kahlil Mack and defensive backs Cortney Lester and Najja Johnson lead the team with three interceptions apiece. The odds don't favor the Aztecs, who have turned the ball over 28 times this season.
MACK ATTACK: A national television audience will get to watch one of the nation's best linebackers in San Diego State's Kahlil Mack. The senior is disruptive, has a knack for making big plays and is a tackling machine. He holds the FBS record for most forced fumbles (16) and shares the NCAA mark for most tackles for loss with 75. Mack was voted the conference defensive player of the year this season and he finished second in voting for the Butkus Award. He leads the team in tackles with 94 and has returned two of his picks this year for touchdowns, one against Ohio State and the other against Massachusetts.
FORGET THE FIELD GOAL: The Aztecs, hobbled by poor field goal kicking this season, have instead focused on going for it on fourth downs. On the season, the Aztecs have converted on 43 percent of their 35 fourth-down tries, the most attempts by any other team in the Mountain West this season. And Long says he's not shy about trying it any time in the game, anywhere on the field. "Any time you think you can make it on fourth down you go for it, no matter what the situation is in the game," he said. "We went for a lot more fourth downs this year than we normally would go for because our kickers have really struggled. So if there is any question ... we're going to go for it."
SNOW FACTOR: Snow, below-freezing temps and mild wind is projected, a forecast that would seem to favor a cold-weather team like Buffalo. But Long said he's not worried about the impact of the weather on the Aztecs, saying they're ready for anything the weather has to offer. "Snow doesn't make a darn bit of difference," said Long. "As long as it's not a blizzard, it'll be kind of fun to play in snow."
YOUNG QBS: Both teams are led by young quarterbacks. Buffalo sophomore Joe Licata has thrown 21 TD passes this season, the second most in a single season in school history. He's thrown for 2,628 yards and completed 59.1 percent of his throws. For the Aztecs, this season marked the emergence of junior Quinn Kaehler, who walked on to the program earlier this year and earned the starting job in the third game. He's thrown for 2,796 yards and 17 TDs and completed 60.1 percent of his passes in leading the team to victories in seven of his 10 starts.