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2012 Poinsettia Bowl Picks: San Diego State vs. BYU Betting Odds
by Trevor Whenham - 12/4/2012

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San Diego State Aztecs RB #4 Adam Muema

2012 Poinsettia Bowl
BYU (-2.5) vs. San Diego State
Dec. 20, 2012, 8 p.m. ET
San Diego, California

The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl is a game that doesn’t get a lot of attention since it is typically played on a weeknight before Christmas. This is the eighth year of the modern era of this bowl, though, and at least five of the previous seven games have been more than just a little interesting. In fact, last year’s TCU victory over Louisiana Tech was one of the more enjoyable games of the whole bowl season.

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This year’s matchup features former Mountain West rivals and two teams that have uncertain futures. BYU went independent, but it is flirting with again joining a conference — including perhaps the Mountain West again. San Diego State is slated to head to the Big East next year, but that move is less certain now that the Big East is falling apart. We don’t know what the future of this matchup holds, but for now it should offer a pretty compelling game.

The Basics

San Diego State - The Aztecs finished at 9-3 to wind up third in the Mountain West, and they were a strong 8-4 ATS. The three losses were all respectable — at Washington and Fresno State and to Washington. Their best wins were at Boise State and at Nevada. Coach Rocky Long is in his second year with the program. He’s just 1-6 as a head coach in bowl games, including a loss in the New Orleans Bowl last year. The team MVP is sophomore RB Adam Muema. He amassed 1,355 yards, and scored 16 rushing touchdowns and one more through the air. He scored in 10 of 12 games.

BYU - The Cougars came in with much higher hopes than the 7-5 record they wound up with. They were even worse ATS at 6-6. Their problem was consistency. They won their first two games, then lost two, then won two, then lost two, then won two before a loss and a win to cap the season. With the exception of Utah the losses were all quality — at Boise State, Notre Dame, and San Jose State, and at home to Oregon State. Utah State and at Georgia Tech were their best wins. Coach Bronco Mendenhall is in his eighth year at BYU. He knows long well — the two worked together at New Mexico from 1998-2002. Mendenhall is 5-2 in bowl games, including wins in his last three. The key player on the team is junior receiver Cody Hoffman. The team used three different quarterbacks, but Hoffman was a constant throughout. He had 1,134 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns, including five against New Mexico State.

Key Factors

Can San Diego State run? - The Aztecs success depends more on their ability to run than anything else. They rank 16th in the country with 229 yards per game. They face a massive challenge here, though — BYU is second in the country in run defense in giving up a paltry 84.2 yards per game. The Broncos are stronger against the pass than the Aztecs are at passing as well, so the Aztecs really need to rely on their strength and try to establish their run early here. It’s going to be a very tough challenge. No other matchup will have a bigger impact on this game than this one.

Familiarity - A lot is made of coaching trees in college football. In this case, Mendenhall is a leaf off the Long tree. From 1998 to 2001 Mendenhall was the defensive coordinator at New Mexico, and he also coached the defensive backs. In 2002 he added the assistant head coach title to his responsibilities. His head coach that whole time was Long. Mendenhall has, in many ways, gone on to exceed his mentor, but they share similar philosophies and foundations — especially in defensive approach. It’s unlikely that either coach will be able to totally surprise their opponent. That means that execution is going to be more important than ever in this one. The team that is more prepared and more focused will win because game planning won’t save the less-focused team.

2012 Poinsettia Bowl Picks and Betting Predictions

BYU gets the nod from me for the two big reasons I already mentioned — they are going to contain San Diego State on the ground, and Mendenhall is the better coach who will have more tricks to rely on. This will be a tight defensive battle, and a field goal could easily decide it, so I wouldn’t want to give up more than three points, but at this price I’m in.

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