BYU COUGARS (7-5)
at SAN DIEGO STATE AZTECS (9-3)
Poinsettia Bowl - San Diego, CA
Kickoff: Thursday, 8:00 p.m. EDT
Line: BYU -2.5, Total: 48.5
BYU looks to retain its dominance over a former Mountain West foe when it plays a true road game at San Diego State in Thursday's Poinsettia Bowl.
BYU is 27-7-1 SU all-time in this series, including 9-1 SU in the past 10 meetings and five straight victories from 2006 to 2010, prevailing by an average of 18.6 PPG during this win streak. Cougars QB Riley Nelson missed the season finale with a ribs injury and was replaced by James Lark, who threw for 384 yards and 6 TD in his first collegiate start. Bronco Mendenhall has yet to name his starter for this game, and likely won't make a final decision until game day. SDSU is also using a second-string quarterback in Adam Dingwell, who has led the team to five straight wins since replacing the injured Ryan Katz. The Aztecs are a run-oriented offense (229 rushing YPG), but BYU has the 2nd-best rushing defense in FBS (84 YPG).
Can San Diego State pull off the mild upset on their home turf? For the answer, download your FREE copy of the StatFox Edge College Bowl Guide for all the StatFox Experts picks for each of the 35 bowls, both Against The Spread and Over/Under.
If you look at the 2012 numbers of the two BYU signal callers, Lark (68% completions, 8 TD, 0 INT) is much more impressive than Nelson (59% completions, 13 TD, 12 INT). Nelson does have bowl experience though, completing 17-of-40 passes for 250 yards, 3 TD and 2 INT in last year's 24-21 Armed Forces Bowl win over Tulsa. Whoever the quarterback is will be relying heavily on junior WR Cody Hoffman, who has 90 catches for 1,134 yards -- 826 more than any other teammate -- to go along with 11 TD. Hoffman has seven 100-yard games this year, including three in a row. In his two career bowl games, Hoffman has 16 catches for 259 yards and six touchdowns, scoring three times in each victory. BYU's rushing offense hasn't been very effective in the past two games, gaining just 223 yards on 68 carries (3.3 YPC). Freshman RB Jamaal Williams has more than twice as many rushing yards (744) as any teammate (Taysom Hill, 336), scoring 11 touchdowns, including six over the past four games. Turnovers have been a problem for the Cougars for much of the season, as they have multiple giveaways in seven of 12 games. Defensively, this BYU squad is outstanding, ranking third in the nation in total defense (266 YPG) and fifth in scoring defense (14.7 PPG). The Cougars are tied for 22nd in the country in sacks (2.6 per game), but their defense doesn't make a whole lot of big plays though, forcing 0-to-1 turnovers in five of their past six games. BYU has won three straight bowl games, scoring 40.0 PPG in these three victories.
Aztecs QB Adam Dingwell has been solid since replacing injured Ryan Katz, completing 63% of his passes with 8 TD and 4 INT. Four of those touchdowns have gone to junior TE Gavin Escobar, who leads the team with 519 receiving yards. Escobar will be playing in his third bowl, catching seven passes for 94 yards over the prior two postseason games. Erratic junior WR Colin Lockett will also need a big game for his team to come out on top. He has four 100-yard receiving efforts this year, but also has six games of less than 50 receiving yards. Lockett was outstanding in last year's heart-breaking 32-30 New Orleans Bowl loss to UL-Lafayette though, catching six passes for 85 yards and three touchdowns. But San Diego State is a much better rushing team (229 YPG, 15th in nation), than passing offense (179 YPG, 106th in FBS). RB Adam Muema (113 rushing YPG, 16 TD) is coming off his best game of the year with 255 yards on 26 carries and 4 TD in a 42-28 win at Wyoming. The Aztecs defense allows 24.5 PPG and 375 total YPG on the season, but has been better recently, allowing less than 20 points in five of the past seven games and limiting the past four opponents to 338 total YPG (164 passing YPG). SDSU also has five games this year of at least three forced turnovers. The Aztecs are playing in their second Poinsettia Bowl in three years, crushing Navy 35-14 in 2010.