Poinsettia Bowl: BYU Cougars vs. San Diego State Aztecs (+3, 48.5)
POINSETTIA BOWL STORYLINES
1. Two former conference foes renew a rivalry that is much more important to San Diego State. The Aztecs are seeking their first 10-win season since 1977 and playing in a third consecutive bowl game for the initial time in program history. Brigham Young attempts to add on to its dominating 27-7-1 edge in the all-time series and is 5-2 in bowl games under eight-year coach Bronco Mendenhall.
2. Mendenhall has an interesting decision to make at quarterback between Riley Nelson and one-game sensation James Lark. Nelson has been maddeningly inconsistent and his absence because of injured ribs presented Lark with the opportunity to pass for 384 yards and six touchdowns in the regular-season finale against porous New Mexico State.
3. Mountain West Coach of the Year Rocky Long of San Diego State and Mendenhall are highly familiar with one another. Mendenhall was defensive coordinator under Long for five seasons (1998-2002) at New Mexico and considers him a mentor. The Aztecs’ atypical 3-3-5 defensive alignment doesn’t prompt an uncomfortable adjustment period for Mendenhall and the BYU staff, who have previously coached against it on several occasions.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN.
LINE: BYU opened between a 2.5 and 3.5-point favorite while the total has moved from 49 to as low as 48 before settling in between.
WEATHER: The forecast calls for clear skies and temperatures in the mid 50s. Winds are expected to blow NNW at 2 mph.
CONSENSUS: Fifty-six percent of Covers Consensus picks are on BYU while 53 percent is on the under.
* Over is 4-1 in the last five meetings in San Diego State.
* Cougars are 10-4 ATS in their last 14 meetings.
* Home team is 5-2 ATS in their last seven meetings.
ABOUT BRIGHAM YOUNG (7-5, 6-6 ATS): No matter who starts at quarterback, junior receiver Cody Hoffman is a big-time threat with 90 catches for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hoffman caught a school-record five touchdowns in the season finale. Freshman Jamaal Williams rushed for a team-best 744 yards for an offense that averages 29.2 points. The Cougars shine on defense, led by junior Kyle Van Noy. The dominating linebacker has 11.5 sacks and five forced fumbles for a unit that ranks third in total defense (266.3 yards per game) and fifth in scoring defense (14.7). BYU’s stout rushing defense (84.3) ranks second nationally as it goes up against a strong San Diego State rushing attack. The Cougars often land an edge in field position with senior Riley Stephenson, who ranks second nationally in punting at 47.3 with a 42.2 net average.
ABOUT SAN DIEGO STATE (9-3, 7-1 Mountain West, 8-4 ATS): The Aztecs have won seven straight games and haven’t lost since September. San Diego State has set a school-record with 2,750 rushing yards – the old mark of 2,476 was set during Marshall Faulk’s freshman campaign in 1991 – with sophomore Adam Muema leading the way with 1,355 yards and 16 rushing scores. San Diego State will be without senior Walter Kazee (822 yards), who injured his knee in the regular season finale. The strong running game has aided sophomore quarterback Adam Dingwell (eight touchdowns, four interceptions) after he became the starter for the final four regular season games because of a season-ending injury to Ryan Katz. Senior cornerback Leon McFadden (three interceptions) will be called on to help slow Hoffman, while junior safety Nat Berhe (team-best 87 tackles) and sophomore middle linebacker Jake Fely (86 stops, team-high seven sacks) are top-notch defenders.