Time: 9:30 PM ET/6:30 PM PT
Location: Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, CA
Line: SDSU -3.5, O/U-52
It's going to be a great night in San Diego, as the hometown San Diego State Aztecs take on the adopted hometown Navy Midshipmen. This game features two of the more unique playbooks in the game, as Navy runs the famed triple-option offense, while Rocky Long has brought his 3-3-5 defensive setup to the game. These two teams have met each other in this bowl game before, the 2010 edition of the Poinsettia Bowl had the Aztecs dominating the Midshipmen 35-14 in front of a record crowd of 48,049 people. While ticket sales are not expected to reach quite that number, having two highly locally supported teams should boost the numbers for this game (just to give a small example, Navy has already sold nearly 11,000 tickets as of yesterday, past their contracted 10,000 allotment).
How San Diego State got here:
This season has been up and down for the Aztecs. Touted as one of the front-runners for the West division in the Mountain West, San Diego State started the season 1-2 after losing in overtime to an okay North Carolina team, and losing badly to a sub-par Oregon State team. Injuries did not help the team either, as one of their best linebackers Jake Fely, has been out as well as other key Aztec players throughout the season. Sitting at 5-5 after losing to Boise State on the road (in a game where they led 20-0 after the first quarter), the Aztecs surged back to beat a rejuvenated Air Force team and their in-state rivals San Jose State to finish the season.
How Navy got here:
Sitting at 2-4 after losing the first leg of the Commander-in-Chief's trophy to Air Force, Keenan Reynolds and company set the lever to full steam and went on a 5-1 run to finish the season, including a blowout win over Sun Belt champions, Georgia Southern, and a close win versus rivals Army on the last game of the season. They get "only" a 10-day break to prepare for this game, but that might work to their advantage.
Who to watch:
It's been known all through the season that San Diego State has a tendency to put the hurt on run-option teams, but is very weak against pass-heavy offenses. Keenan Reynolds must be able to throw the ball when needed, and his receivers can't drop that ball. Running against the 3-3-5 defense only works to a point, so Reynolds must rely on more play action passes within the option and dump the ball off to his backs and receivers.
For the Aztecs, all eyes will be on Donnel Pumphrey who is 88 yards away from breaking the SDSU record for most rushing yards in a season. Think about the Aztecs history with great running backs, and then think of how good Pumphrey must be to perform better than any of those backs. Now think about how bad Navy's run defense is (they give up 199.7 yards/game), you get the picture.
Both of these teams have something to prove after relatively disappointing season. San Diego State will come out running and will use the pass to set up the run. The 3-3-5 defense will stop Navy's run game for most of the time, forcing Reynolds to pass. Since San Diego State has had a hard time playing the full 60 minutes the whole season, the Middies should be able to close in after falling way behind. That being said, I fully expect the Aztecs to beat the spread and win this game, with a touchdown in the final quarter killing the game for Navy.
San Diego State 31, Navy 24