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December 20, 2012
Poinsettia Bowl Preview
SDSU has put up a lot of points this year, what has made this offense so good?
Undoubtedly the biggest reason for SDSU's offensive success this season (35 points per game) has been the ability to run the ball effectively. Sophomore Adam Muema (1,355 yds., 16 TD, 6.4 yards per carry) was an absolute force this season as a grind-it-out, between the tackles runner and is a home run threat too as many of his touchdowns came off long runs after breaking several tackles. Walter Kazee (822 yards, 8 TD's) alternated with Muema to keep him fresh, but will be unavailable for the Poinsettia Bowl due to a torn ACL. Taking Kazee's place in SDSU's two-back offense will be bowling ball Chase Price, who has been effective when called upon this season.
What are weak points in this team?
Since SDSU's offense revolves so much around establishing the run -- which in turn sets up play-action -- it can stall when the Aztecs are forced into obvious passing situations. On the defensive side of the ball, the d-line and secondary used to be weaknesses but have gotten better as the season progressed. The defensive backs can have a tendency to miss tackles, however. SDSU's defense struggles when facing a prolific quarterback and a spread offense, but that won't be the case in this matchup.
What will be the keys for a SDSU win? And the keys for a BYU win?
SDSU's defense is completely healthy and matches up well with pro-style offenses, so they should be just fine on the defensive side of the ball. On offense, the Aztecs must establish the run if they want to have any chance to win, which is bad news for SDSU because BYU is so adept at shutting down the rush. The Aztecs' offense is predicated on running the ball, and when they can't run, that's when they have trouble scoring.
BYU must force the Aztecs into third-and-long situations and make quarterback Adam Dingwell beat them through the air. On offense, whoever is playing quarterback -- whether it is Riley Nelson, James Lark, or both -- has to limit their mistakes and not turn the ball over. SDSU has also had problems with mobile quarterbacks, so if Nelson and/or Lark can make plays on the run, that'll be a plus.
Is there a team that SDSU fans hate more than BYU?
Nope. A close second would be UNLV in basketball, but since the Rebels' football team is so bad there's really no rivalry-type feel between SDSU and UNLV on the gridiron. On the other hand, BYU is a team that every Aztec fan loves to hate, and although the Cougars would probably laugh at the thought of SDSU being a rival (especially when they own a 27-7-1 edge in the series), fans over here in San Diego consider this a heated rivalry.
From the tie game in 1991, to the Marshall Faulk 300-rushing yard, three-touchdown SDSU win a year later, to the "Replay-gate" controversy the last time these two teams met in 2010, there's so much history between the Cougars and Aztecs.
What are your predictions for the game?
With one of the nation's top rush defenses (well, top defenses total, since BYU is so good against the pass too), BYU matches up so well with SDSU, which relies on the run to set up its entire offense. If Jamaal Williams is running hard and Nelson or Lark get hot, it will be a looong afternoon for the Aztecs.
But if there was any year that SDSU would be able to take down the Cougars, it's this season. The Aztecs are coming off their first-ever Mountain West Conference championship, have won big games on the road at Boise State and Nevada, and are playing in what should essentially be a home game at Qualcomm Stadium (head coach Rocky Long even said Mendenhall was nice enough to let the Aztecs use their regular locker room).
I think it will be a grind-it-out type of game with plenty of three-and-outs, but I'm taking SDSU to win by the slimmest of margins, 21-20.