Poinsettia Bowl Preview
BYU (7-5) vs. San Diego State (9-3)
December 20, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
What to expect with the Cougars: BYU’s defensive front should and will load the box to attempt to control San Diego State’s stellar running game. The main focus will be to contain sophomore tailback Adam Muema, force the Aztecs to throw the ball, and let an experienced secondary try to work up some costly interceptions against a backup quarterback (although it only has nine all year).
As they’ve been all season, the Cougars will be heavily-reliant on their defense. Quarterback Riley Nelson has struggled and may not see full-time action, with senior James Lark ready on the sidelines. In order for BYU to come away with its sixth bowl win in seven years, it will need an efficient, turnover-free performance from its signal caller – and that could prove to be difficult.
What to expect with the Aztecs: San Diego State will attempt to do what it does best: run the football. Adam Muema has ran for 1,355 yards and 16 touchdowns off a staggering 6.4 yards per carry, including six 100-yard performances (his latest being a 255-yard, four-touchdown outburst against Wyoming). The Aztecs 15th overall in this category as a team and will not shy away from their bread and butter, despite a strong BYU defensive front seven.
The key to sustained offensive drives will come by the decision-making of sophomore backup quarterback Adam Dingwell, who replaced Ryan Katz in Week 8 after an injury. He’s been solid thus far, completing 61.7 percent of his passes for a 6.9 yards-per-attempt average. Dingwell hasn’t seen a defense like BYU’s (Boise State was close), but will a steady ground attack, he should continue to do just enough.
Synopsis: This game will be won at the line of scrimmage. If San Diego State can find success through the gaps and establish a run game early, you can kiss any chances of a BYU victory good bye. Although the Cougars rank third nationally in total yards allowed, SDSU has an extremely potent backfield with the ability to control the tempo of the game. That’s not good news for a BYU offense that’s, well, lacking of the sort.
The Poinsettia Bowl is held at Qualcomm Stadium, which is also the home of the Aztecs. SDSU has the better all-around weaponry to ultimately outscore BYU and win its eighth game in a row, but has to show resiliency early and cannot take too many punches to the mouth.
San Diego State 23, BYU 16 --- via Bowl Predictions