San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

    San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl Navy (7-5) vs. San Diego State (7-5) Dec. 23, 9:30, ESPN Here’s The Deal: If you like high-flying passing

    December 18, 2014

    San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

    Navy (7-5) vs. San Diego State (7-5) Dec. 23, 9:30, ESPN
    Here’s The Deal: If you like high-flying passing games, and if you’re dreaming of a Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady-like day of quarterbacks, this won’t be for you. That doesn’t mean it won’t be fun.

    Navy’s rushing attack is among the most devastating in college football, doing what the program does best with a nation-leading 345 rushing yards per game, while San Diego State loves to pound the ball and get physical defensively. There’s not a lot of guesswork to what these two teams are going to come up with, and that should mean a fast game with the clock rolling with run after run after run.

    The Aztecs had a strange regular season struggling to find a passing game for a while and starting out in trouble losing three of the first five games. There weren’t any problems against the Mountain West bottom-feeders – New Mexico, UNLV, Idaho and Hawaii – but once it came time to play someone decent, the offense just didn’t work.

    Finally, SDSU played well in a loss to Boise State and came up with a key win over Air Force, but that was about it for the positives on the resume with just one victory over a bowl bound team. Even so after winning three of the last four, beating Navy would make this a positive season no matter what, and it would mean the second bowl win in a row after rocking Buffalo in the 2013 Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. The Aztecs beat Navy in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl, 35-14.

    Navy had the schedule and the returning talent to come up with a tremendous year, but losses to Rutgers, WKU and Air Force ended those hopes before the midseason. But as QB Keenan Reynolds seemed to get healthier, and as the team started to find a little bit of a groove, then everything started to work as expected winning five of the last six games – only losing to Notre Dame – with wins over Sun Belt champ Georgia Southern and Army along the way.

    Can this work? Can the offense keep producing against a team with a great defensive front that has a few weeks to prepare? Navy has only won two of its last seven bowl games, but it’s on a roll and has the advantage of potentially being a little sharper. San Diego State will go 24 days between games, while the Midshipmen will go just ten.

    Not too bad since its inception in 2005, the Poinsettia Bowl has seen its share of blowouts, but four of the last eight have been decided by seven points or fewer, including last year’s 21-14 Utah State win over Northern Illinois. Navy is 1-2 in the game, while San Diego State is 1-1.

    Why Navy Might Win: Navy might not have much of a passing game, but at least it’s efficient. San Diego State can’t seem to get the ball down the field with any consistency. Everything clicked in the win over Air Force – with Quinn Kaehler throwing for 326 yards – but that was followed up by a 4-of-15, 34-yard performance against San Jose State. Navy’s secondary is good enough to hold its own against this group.

    – Run on San Diego State, beat San Diego State. Boise State and Nevada were the only two teams to run for more than 200 yards on the Aztecs, and they both won. Fresno State ran for 172 yards, and it won. SDSU is 1-4 when allowing two touchdowns or more – the win over Army was the only time Navy didn’t run for multiple scores.

    – Field position matters in this game to these two running teams, but San Diego State doesn’t punt all that well averaging just 34.2 yards per pop. Navy doesn’t do anything on punt returns, but it won’t need to.

    – San Diego State doesn’t beat itself, but Navy is No. 1 in the nation in both fewest penalties and penalty yards. The Midshipmen were flagged more than three times just twice all year, and never got nailed for more than 55 yards of penalties. SDSU isn’t bad in terms of penalties, and it has tightened up as the year went on, but it’s been flagged four times or more 11 times in 12 games.

    – Among the best teams in the nation on third downs, Navy is converting at a whopping 48% clip moving the chains 40% of the time or more in every game this year but three. As good as the SDSU defense is, it’s not a rock on third downs allowing teams to convert 40% of the time.

    Why San Diego State Might Win: San Diego State 30, Air Force 14. Air Force 30, Navy 21. San Diego State just played the Falcons a few weeks ago and manhandled their rushing attack, giving up just 140 yards and a score on 41 carries. The Aztec linebackers know how to defend what Navy is bringing.

    – Navy’s best win this year came against … Texas State? Georgia Southern? While the Midshipmen gave Ohio State all it could handle, and they thumped a precise and effective Georgia Southern team 52-19, the wins haven’t come against the better teams or the stronger run defenses …

    – Yes, SDSU allowed Boise State and Nevada’s offenses to rumble, but they still were held to under five yards per carry. The Aztecs are outstanding at attacking from the outside and getting behind the line, and they should be able to contain Keenan Reynolds and make him work inside.

    – This might be the Donnel Pumphrey show. The Aztec sophomore ran for 1,761 yards and 19 touchdowns on the year, proving to be a workhorse even though he’s only 5-9 and 170 pounds. Slippery, he ran for 267 yards and three touchdowns against San Jose State, and 246 yards against New Mexico. If he runs for 239 yards, he hits the 2,000-yard mark.

    – SDSU has a very good, very sound, very strong linebacking corps with sophomore Calvin Munson and senior Josh Gavert tying for the team lead with 78 stops. A star in the making, Munson picked off four passes with four sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss, while Gavert is more like a big safety getting all over the field. Expect the two to combine for 20 tackles.

    What’s Going To Happen: Both teams are going to run the ball well, but San Diego State won’t let Navy control the clock or the tempo. The Aztec defensive front will have its moments, while Pumphrey and the running game will match Navy’s attack stride for stride. Navy just doesn’t have SDSU’s defense, but it’ll keep up in a bit of a shootout.

    Prediction: San Diego State 37 … Navy 20

    Line: San Diego State -2.5 o/u: 54.5


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