2012 Poinsettia Bowl picks are going to be entertaining to make this year, as we have a de facto host of this game in the San Diego State Aztecs. Head Coach Rocky Long’s team will look to avenge last year’s bowl defeat in the New Orleans Bowl when SDSU battles it out with former Mountain West rivals, the BYU Cougars. Join us for our Poinsettia Bowl keys to the game and our BYU vs. San Diego State predictions.
2012 Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State Aztecs vs. BYU Cougars
2012 Poinsettia Bowl Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
2012 Poinsettia Bowl Date/Time: Thursday, December 20th, 8:00 p.m. (ET)
2012 Poinsettia Bowl On TV: ESPN, Watch ESPN
Click Here For The Rest Of The 2012-13 Bowl Game Schedule And Other Bowl Game Previews
Key #1: San Diego State has to figure out how to move the ball on the ground
QB Adam Dingwell has done a great job this year for the Aztecs, stepping in for the injured QB Ryan Katz and leading the team to a perfect record since getting the starting gig. The problem that the Aztecs might have in this one though, is that they could struggle on the ground. Take out the game against the No. 1 team in the land, the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, and BYU only allowed 67.3 yards per game this year, and that includes a game against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets and their triple option offense. Head Coach Bronco Mendenhall has himself a heck of a defense that has stood up to just about every test it has faced this year. San Diego State though, has two great backs in RB Adam Muema and RB Walter Kazee. These two men just have to keep the ball moving for a SDSU team that averages 229.2 yards per game on the ground. If not and Dingwell has to throw the ball to keep it moving against the Cougars, there could be massive problems. For as well as Dingwell played when he had to this year, he did only average 6.9 yards per pass attempt, and he had just an 8/4 TD/INT ratio.
Key #2: BYU cannot lose ground in the special teams department
Mendenhall will tell you just how badly his special teams units have played this year. The kicking game has been absolutely atrocious, as the team has made just nine of its 17 field goal attempts on the campaign. The return game hasn’t produced a single touchdown all year long, and there hasn’t been a return of a punt or a kick go longer than 44 yards all year either. The one aspect that this team has really capitalized on this year though, has been in the punting department. P Riley Stephenson finished out the year ranked second in the country in yards per punt at 47.3, and he is a real weapon for the team to have. That being said, punting is one very tiny aspect to the game on a regular basis, and without a kicker to rely upon on a regular basis, it is going to make this a difficult game for the Cougs to try to play. This one had better not boil down to a crucial kick, knowing how bad both Stephenson as a field goal kicker and K Justin Sorensen have been all year long.
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Key #3: Riley Nelson has to work the ball up the field
First off, Nelson has to be healthy, and that’s first and foremost. The fifth year senior has been dealing with all sorts of problems all year long, and now, it’s his back that is bothering him. He admits that he isn’t at 100%, but regardless of whether he is or he isn’t, Thursday is going to be the day that he has to take the field against a San Diego State defense that has been deceptively solid all year long. Yes, the team showed that it was prone to some big plays by allowing a pair of 40+ yard touchdowns against the Wyoming Cowboys, but those were the only scores beyond 25 yards that the team allowed since September 29th against the Fresno State Bulldogs. Nelson averages just 6.6 yards per pass attempt, and there isn’t a receiver on the team that averages more than 12.6 yards per catch this year. That’s why RB Jamaal Williams and the gang have struggled getting things going in the running game. There just isn’t all that much of a deep threat on a regular basis. Parlay the fact that the Aztecs haven’t gotten burned by the big play with the fact that BYU doesn’t seem to really have the ability to strike for those long touchdowns with regularity makes this a dangerous spot for the Cougs to be in.