College Football Poinsettia Bowl Betting Preview: BYU Cougars vs San Diego St Aztecs

2012 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl
Thursday, December 20, 2012, 8:00 pm Eastern, TV: ESPN
Brigham Young Cougars vs San Diego State Aztecs
Qualcomm Stadium – San Diego, California
Opening Line: BYU -3 (-105)
Current Line: BYU -3 1/2
Opening Total: 50
Current Total: 48
Opening Money Line: BYU -150 / SDSU +130
Current Money Line: BYU -165 / SDSU +145

BYU is a 3.5 point favorite in Thursday’s Poinsettia Bowl against former longtime conference rival San Diego St in San Diego.

Long time WAC and Mountain West conference foes the BYU Cougars and San Diego St Aztecs renew their rivalry in the Poinsettis Bowl Thursday night. BYU left the Mountain West after the 2010 season and became an independent. BYU is 7-5 this season and San Diego St is 9-3. The Aztecs tied with Fresno St and Boise St at 7-1 for the Mountain West title. It was the first conference title since 1998 for the Aztecs. SDSU and Boise St are expected to leave the Mountain West for the Big East next season, but that might be up in the air. There is some talk that SDSU and Boise might stay with the Mountain West and that BYU could rejoin the conference as well.

This is the 36th meeting all time between BYU and San Diego St. The Cougars lead the series 27-7-1, and have won 9 of the last 10 in the series, including 5 in a row. BYU won 24-21 in Provo in 2010. Though this is technically a neutral site game, Qualcomm Stadium is the Aztecs’ home stadium. BYU is 11-4-1 against SDSU all-time in the stadium.

BYU is 12-17-1 all-time in bowl games. This the eighth straight bowl appearance for the Cougars, and they are 5-2 in those games. BYU was won 2 straight bowl games, including 24-21 over Tulsa in the Armed Forces Bowl last season. San Diego St is 2-5 all-time in bowl games. The Aztecs have gone to 3 straight bowl games. The Aztecs lost to Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl 32-30 last year.

BYU is coached by Bronco Mendenhall. The Cougars have won 3 of their last 4 games. BYU has a home loss to Oregon St 42-24, along with road losses at Utah 24-21, Boise St 7-6, Notre Dame 17-14, and San Jose St 20-14. Other than Utah all of BYU’s losses came to bowl teams. The Cougars have home wins over Washington St 30-6, Weber St 45-13, Hawaii 47-0, Utah St 6-3, and Idaho 52-13, along with road wins at Georgia Tech 41-17 and New Mexico St 50-14 to close out the regular season.  Georgia Tech and Utah St went to bowl games, but every other BYU win came over teams with 3 wins or less. Georgia Tech finished 6-7 and had to get a special waiver to play in a bowl from the NCAA. BYU is 6-6 ATS and the total is 5-6 this season.

BYU is averaging 409.1 yards per game, including 247.5 passing yards with 161.6 rushing yards. The Cougars are outscoring teams 29-15 this season. BYU is -5 in turnover margin this season with 22 giveaways. The Cougars are averaging 56.4 penalty yards and have allowed 28 sacks this season. BYU is 107/221 on third and fourth down conversions, and 48/60 scoring in the red zone with 39 touchdowns.  On defense, the Cougars are allowing 266.3 total yards per game, including 182.1 passing yards, and 84.2 rushing yards. BYU is #13 in pass defense nationally, and is in the top 5 in total defense, against the run, and scoring defense. The Cougars have forced 31 sacks and 17 turnovers this season. BYU opponents are 52/182 on third and fourth down conversions, and 16/26 scoring in the red zone with 12 touchdowns.

BYU quarterback Riley Nelson is probable with a rib injury. He missed the New Mexico St game with the injury, and two games earlier in the season with back spasms. He is 181/306 passing (59.2%) for 2,011 yards with 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He also has 85 carries for 183 yards and a touchdown. If Nelson can’t go  James Lark will get the start. He started the New Mexico St game. Lark is 50/74 passing (67.6%) for 534 yards with 8 touchdowns and no picks. Lark also has a rushing touchdown. He started off the season as the third string quarterback. Redshirt freshman Taysom Hill is out for the season with a knee injury. Hill was 42/71 passing with 425 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. He was also the second leading rusher for the Cougars with 55 carries, 336 yards with 4 touchdowns.

Running back Jamaal Williams has 151 carries, 744 yards, and 11 touchdowns, along with 25catches for 288yards and a touchdown. Running back Michael Alisa is out for the season with a forearm injury. He has 58 carries, 222 yards, and a touchdown.David Foote and Paul Lasike each get a few carries a game. Lasike has 2 rushing touchdowns, and Foote has 10 catches, 105 yards and a touchdown.

Receiver Cody Hoffman has 90 catches, 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns. Kaneakua Friel has 30 catches, 308 yards, and 5 touchdowns. Ross Apo has 29 catches, 302 yards and a touchdown. J.D. Falslev has 33 catches, 251 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 17 carries for 104 yards. Skyler Ridley has 20 catches, 206 yards and a touchdown. Devin Mahina has 2 touchdown catches. Five defensive players and 3 offensive linemen are listed as questionable, doubtful or out for the Cougars.

San Diego St is coached by Rocky Long. The Aztecs have won 7 straight games. SDSU has losses at Washington 21-21, and Fresno St 52-40, and at home against San Jose St 38-34. All three losses are to teams in bowl games. The Aztecs have home wins over army 42-7, North Dakota 49-41, Hawaii 52-14, Colorado St 38-14, UNLV 24-13, and Air Force 28-9, along with road wins at Nevada 39-38 in overtime, Boise St 21-19, and Wyoming 42-28 to close out the regular season. Air Force, Nevada, and Boise St all made bowl games this year. SDSU is 8-4 ATS and the total is 5-6 this season.

San Diego St is averaging 407.8 yards per game on offense, including 178.6 passing yards and 229.2 rushing yards. The Aztecs are #15 in rushing nationally and #106 in passing out of 124 teams. SDSU is outscoring teams 35-25 this season. The Aztecs are +3 in turnovers with 20 giveaways. San Diego St averages 49.4 penalty yards and has given up 32 sacks this season. The Aztecs are 96/187 on third and fourth down conversions and 43/48 scoring in the red zone with 36 touchdowns. SDSU is allowing 375.8 yards per game on defense, including 234.8 passing yards and 141 rushing yards. The Aztecs have forced 30 sacks and 23 turnovers. SDSU opponents are 83/195 on third and fourth down conversions and 32/40 scoring in the red zone with 28 touchdowns. The Aztecs have 6 defensive/special teams touchdowns this season.

SDSU quarterback Ryan Katz is out for the season with an ankle injury. He had over 1,600 combined rushing and passing yards along with 17 total touchdowns and 4 interceptions. Adam Dingwell has started the last 5 games. Dingwell is 71/115 passing (61.7%) for 795 yards with 8 touchdowns and 4 interceptions, along with 35 carries, 96 yards and a touchdown.

Running back Adam Muema has 211 carries, 1,355 yards, and 16 touchdowns, along with 8 catches, 113 yards and a touchdown. Walter Kazee has 161 carries, 822 yards, and 8 touchdowns, along with 7 catches for 46 yards. Chase Price will get a few carries and has a rushing touchdown. Tight end Gavin Escobar has 41 catches, 519 yards, and 6 touchdowns. Brice Butler has 23 catches, 343 yards and 4 touchdowns. Colin Lockett has 20 catches, 293 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 42 rushing yards. He also averages 26.7 yards per kick return and has two touchdowns. Ezell Ruffin, Dominique Sandifer and Chad Young will also get some targets. Young has 3 receiving touchdowns. Three Aztec defensive backs are listed as questionable, doubtful, or out Thursday.

BYU is 7-0 ATS against Mountain West teams, 4-0 in December and in neutral site games, 6-2 in Thursday games, 9-3 after gaining more than 450 yards, 17-6 after allowing 100 rushing yards or less, 8-3 after a cover, and against teams with winning records, 5-2 in bowl games, 9-4 on grass, 13-6 overall, 1-4 after allowing 20 points or less, 0-6 after a straight up win, 0-5 after a win by 20 or more points, 0-4 after scoring 40 points or more and after allowing 275 yards or less. The Cougars are 10-4 ATS in the last 14 against the Aztecs. Four of the last five games in San Diego in this series have gone over the total.

San Diego St is 4-0 ATS after passing for less than 170 yards, 6-1 overall, 5-1 after a straight up win, and after gaining more than 450 total yards, 4-1 after a cover, and against independent teams, 2-5 in non-conference games, 1-5 after scoring more than 40 points, and 2-10 after rushing for 200 yards or more. The home team is 5-2 ATS in this series.

The two coaches know each other very well. Mendenhall was the defensive coordinator under head coach Long for several seasons when both were at New Mexico. Mendenhall considers Long to be a friend and mentor. Still, both teams want to win this game badly. San Diego St can get to 10 wins, and BYU is looking to win 4 straight bowl games. I look for San Diego St to pull off the mild upset in a close low-scoring affair. To be honest, the Aztecs should probably be favored despite the injuries.

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