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Poinsettia Bowl preview

Amongst the brethren of guest writers on the site these days, there is plenty of expertise across a wide range of sports. For the NCAA Bowl series, James Jack, @materialista27, has stepped up with some previews. He got off to a great start last week, so here we go again. Read more of his work on his special College Bowl site.

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San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Thursday December 20th, 3pm PT (1am GMT)

Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California

San Diego State Aztecs vs. Brigham Young University Cougars


The Poinsettia Bowl is a post-season NCAA-sanctioned Division I-A college football bowl game that was created in 2005. The game is currently sponsored by the San Diego County Credit Union and is known as the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl. The second-place team from the Mountain West Conference (MWC) is guaranteed a spot in this bowl through the 2014 season. BYU was invited to play in the 2012 game as an at-large team. TCU defeated Louisiana Tech in the 2011 game.

This year's game features newly-independent BYU home of Mormonism, and purveyors of the notorious “honor code” of which several prominent student athletes such as Brandon Davies fell foul of last year. The school has produced many Hall of Fame caliber athletes typified by Steve Young and Danny Ainge; however the honor code has proved to be one of the most controversial pieces of this University's history, aside from Brigham Young himself. Now onto the team itself, they finished 7-5 in the regular season, and although they averaged 247.5 yards through the air, nearly half of that comes on first down. The defense is the real strength of this team and that is what is important in this game, they held their opponents to an average of 2.71 yards per attempt, and only 84.25 yards per game, good for second in the nation.

San Diego State finished in a three way tie for the MWC with (20)Boise State and Fresno State including a win in Boise, the only away team to get the W on the Smurf Turf. They will field sophomore Adam Muema who compiled 1355 yards this season, good for 16th nationally. Quarterback Ryan Katz complemented Muema well, completing for over 1300 yards and 13 TDs. Most of their success comes on the ground, and the key match-up will be how the Aztecs rushing attack deals with the Cougars run defense.

FOR BYU TO WIN

Force San Diego to pass the ball, they have been strong all season against the run and have been involved in two games this season where the total points make up hasn't reached 20. A 6-3 against (22)Utah State who murdered Toledo on Saturday and a 7-6 defeat @ (20)Boise State which is more notable as the Broncos scored on an interception return at 13:21 of the third quarter and despite averaging 173 yards on the ground, couldn't score another point against the Cougars defense. This stifling defense could prove to be too much for the Aztecs, especially as the Aztec defense gives up an average of 234 yards through the air. If they can stop San Diego State's running game, there might be champagne flowing in Provo on Thursday night, but then again, that'd be an honor code violation.

FOR SAN DIEGO STATE TO WIN

Pressure Riley Nelson from the inside and stop the run. Although the Aztec rush defense isn't as vaunted as the BYU defense, it still ranks 36th nationally at just 140 yards per game. If they can force Nelson to go to the air, the Cougars can be stopped. Nelson has thrown for over 2000 yards, but he's given up 12 interceptions, and BYU's turnover differential is -5, rare to see for a bowl team. The difference between BYU's offense of 5.28 yards per play and the Aztecs defense of 5.26 yards per play is crucial, if San Diego State can load the box and force the Cougars to the outside they can control and win this game. They've suffered against BYU historically losing 9 of the last 10 meetings, and 27 of 35 all-time, but they've improved under the leadership of Rocky Long since he stepped up from the Defensive Coordinator role and they could be a team to watch next year with most of their roster consisting of sophomores and juniors.

VERDICT

Slow start, with both defenses stifling the run game, expect plenty 3-and-outs, but as the game pace starts to slow and defenses tire, I favor the San Diego State passing game to kick in and move the chains regularly. BYU will try to counter by airing it out, but crucial mis-reads by fit again QB Riley Nelson will hand this one to the Aztecs.

ADVICE

San Diego State +3.5

Under 48.5

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