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The city of San Diego welcomes the host San Diego State Aztecs and the Navy Midshipmen to Qualcomm Stadium for the Poinsettia Bowl on December 23rd. These two teams have distinctly different styles, but both teams find ways to score points in bunches. Who will prevail on Thursday night? Check out our Poinsettia Bowl free picks for the big duel!
Poinsettia Bowl Matchup: Navy Midshipmen vs. San Diego State Aztecs
Date: Thursday, December 23rd, 8:00 ET
Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
Poinsettia Bowl Line: San Diego State -3
Midshipmen Notes: Navy scored at least 31 points in each of its last six games and averaged 41.0 points per game in that stretch, but its offense is going to be up against in versus a San Diego State team that plays significantly better defense than one would expect. QB Ricky Dobbs is closing out his career with the Middies and is clearly one of the best signal callers to run the triple option in Annapolis. Dobbs didn't quite have the year that he did last season when he rushed for 27 TDs, as he only totaled 25 scores between his rushes and passes this year. The ball stayed in his hands 369 times this year, more than half of the touches for the offense, but that is to be expected out of a triple option attack. RB Alexander Teich had a fantastic year as well, rumbling for 825 yards and five scores. As always in the triple option, a ton of different players are expected to touch the rock. Nine different players had at least 100 yards on the ground for a team that averaged over 280 yards per game on the turf. Don't discount the passing game either for the Midshipmen, as they really do resemble the Georgia Tech offense from a year ago with WR Demaryius Thomas catching all those passes. WR Greg Jones does the damage for the Naval Academy, and though he doesn't have numbers like Thomas, he does have fantastic figures for a Navy wide out, catching 30 passes for 577 yards and four scores on the year. Defensively, this team was the definition of mediocre, ranking No. 63 and No. 65 respectively against the rush and the pass.
Aztecs Notes: When you talk about an offense that is as well rounded as could be, you have to talk about the San Diego State 'O'. This team is only getting better, as the majority of the key cogs are still underclassmen and are growing under second year Head Coach Brady Hoke. Hoke has done a tremendous job with this team, as the Aztecs average 450.3 yards per game, No. 22 in the land. They put up 35.0 points per game and were really the only team this year that hung around with the TCU Horned Frogs. The losses this year all came by four points or fewer, and it is clear that SDSU really could have been a BCS team with just a few bounces in the right direction this year. QB Ryan Lindley, a third year starter, clearly had the best year in his career, throwing for 3,554 yards and 26 TDs against 14 picks on the year. He was helped out by a pair of seniors, WR DeMarco Sampson and WR Vincent Brown a ton. Both men are amongst the best receivers in the land statistically, as Sampson had 65 grabs for 1,175 yards and eight scores, while Brown had 58 grabs for 1,127 yards and nine TDs. Both are incredible deep threats and are fantastic in the open field, creating a ton of yards after the catch. On the ground though, this is going to be a chance for RB Ronnie Hillman to be on showcase. The freshman might have been the best first year man on the ground in the nation, and that's saying something considering the fact that South Carolina Gamecocks RB Marcus Lattimore was a freshman as well. The numbers between the two are basically indiscernible. Hillman ran for 1,304 yards and 14 TDs this year and had five games on the campaign with at least 150 yards on the ground. Defensively, Hoke has made some great strides with this team. The Aztecs ranked in the Top 50 in every single major defensive category on the year, and though there were some lapses, only three teams scored more than 27 points against this unit all season long.
The Final Word: If this game were later in the bowl season, we'd be more confidence in San Diego State's ability to win. Though it's not really a home game, there is a sense of familiarity for the Aztecs, knowing that this is their home field. The Middies always seem to be able to draw a great crowd, especially for bowl games. However, the problem that they have is that they have given the Aztecs basically a month to be able to prepare for the triple option attack. Hoke is a fantastic coach and has done one of the best transformation jobs in the country this year. The Aztecs won't lose this game.
Poinsettia Bowl Free Pick: San Diego State -3
Poinsettia Bowl Prediction: San Diego State 37 – Navy 28