San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Besides being the best possible match-up, the Poinsettia Bowl also features many story lines. Longtime friendly head coaches, longtime former conference foes, both with recent struggles finding life after the MWC. We could go on and on, but we’re here to get you prepared for the game.
BYU hasn’t played a bowl game in San Diego since its last Holiday Bowl appearance in 1993. Overall, the Cougs have played there 11 times. When the Bowl game first started, BYU played in the first seven, earning the moniker of the first “BYU Bowl.” The Cougars are 12-17-1 in bowl games and are 27-7-1 all-time against the Aztecs.
I’m going into this preview of the mind that James Lark will get the start and BYU will force some occasional work Riley Nelson’s way.
San Diego State
Here are some interesting tidbits on San Diego State:
- Rocky Long has the highest winning percentage of any SDSU coach since Claude Gilbert, who coached the Aztecs from 1973-1980.
- After winning just 38 games in the first decade of 2000, SDSU has amassed 26 wins since 2010.
- The Aztecs are just 2-5 in bowl competition.
- SDSU scored 244 points during their 7 game win streak to close the season. BYU has given up 176 points all season.
BYU will win if their:
Offense has James Lark under center. They could win with Riley Nelson, but I don’t think it will be him, so it doesn’t matter. The bottom line is, James Lark is going to do something Nelson can’t . . . keep the defense honest. Sure, he may not be the great “could have been“ quarterback Cougar fans (like myself) think he is, but it doesn’t matter. He can make the throws well enough that SDSU will have to stay honest in their coverage which will open up running lanes for freshman wunderkind Jamaal Williams.
The most basic key for the Cougs offense will be to give the defense time to watch from the sideline. If they do that, BYU wins.
Defense keeps San Diego State from reaching their weekly totals of 5.1 yards/carry and 229.1 rushing yards per game. Adam Muema is actually the workhorse at 6.4 YPC and 112.9 yards/game. However, Walter Kazee is no slouch himself. BYU’s defense will have its hands full all game long. Shortening the team average by a yard or more and holding them to less than 150 total yards rushing should do the trick.
In the passing game, the defense shouldn’t be tested too much. Sophomore Adam Dingwell is more of a game manager and only averages 13.8 receptions/game in five games. He gains about 153 yards in the air with close to 2 TD and 1 INT per game. If BYU can force SDSU into long down and distance situations, they should come up victors on third down at their usually better than 80% rate.
SDSU will win if their:
Offense does what has worked best for them; run the football. It’s no small feat trying to be productive on the ground against this BYU defense. In order to maintain effectiveness, the Aztecs must have a presence by throwing the football. SDSU will throw the ball more than they usually do or they’ll punt a lot. The Aztecs must find a way to keep BYU’s uber-aggressive front seven off-balance. And it would be really helpful if kick returner Colin Lockett could continue doing what he’s been doing all year. He’s in the top 20 nationally in kickoff return yards and averages nearly 27 yards each time he touches it. Did I mention he’s returned two for touchdowns? A freebie touchdown would get a home crowd fired up quickly and give a huge advantage to the Aztecs.
Adam Muema needs to play the toughest game of his life. He’s on a roll lately notching 255 yards in his last game and averaging 145 over his last 4. He’ll need to keep the BYU defense occupied and will need to give quarterback Adam Dingwell time to develop passing plays. And don’t call Dingwell a back-up QB. He’s been nothing short of formidable under center, with a passer rating and touchdown to interception ratio both better than Riley Nelson’s. He doesn’t make a ton of mistakes and he puts the team in position to win ball games.
Defense can keep Cody Hoffman from catching footballs. Put two or three guys in a zone coverage to keep him covered up. If I were to keep two players on or close to him, I’d probably jam him on the line every single down knowing I had help behind. While keeping Hoffman in check, they’ll want to frustrate BYU’s offensive line. If SDSU can win the battle of the line of scrimmage, BYU’s running game will suffer. Additionally, the passing game will suffer. That will lead to a lot of punts and many chances for the Aztecs to move the football with their offense on the field and not BYU’s. If they can somehow contain the Cougar offense, it will be only a matter of time before SDSU’s offense wears out the BYU defense.
BYU keys to success:
Offensively: Lark passes over 225 yards for 2 touchdowns, Cody Hoffman goes for at least 10 for 125 and a score, and Jamaal Williams has 21 total touches for 125 total yards.
Defensively: Allow fewer than 150 rushing yards, win third down, and don’t lose the turnover battle.
Special teams: Riley Stephenson continues to do his thing by providing the extra little offensive firepower the team needs.
SDSU keys to success:
Offensively: Adam Dingwell has no turnovers and Adam Muema reaches the 125 rushing yards plateau
Defensively: Hold BYU under 24 points – in all five BYU losses they failed to score more than 24 and in just one of their wins did they score fewr than the magic number.
Special Teams: Colin Lockett does what Colin Lockett do.
If Riley Nelson is starting for BYU, SDSU should have the advantage. If JamesLark starts, the Aztecs just don’t have enough on the guy to know how good he really can be. It may take a couple of quarters to figure it out. But will it be all over by then? SDSU cannot, CANNOT afford to get behind early. They need to play their style of football to stay competitive in this game. And I think they will. BYU probably comes out and commits a couple of drive-killing penalties or turnovers and could get behind early as well. Expect this to be a very entertaining game. And please don’t let it end in controversy like ‘Replaygate.’
Matt picks BYU to win 31 – 20
Carl picks SDSU to win 24 – 19