Navy Midshipmen (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS) vs. San Diego Aztecs (8-4 SU, 8-4 ATS), 8:00 p.m. EST, Poinsettia Bowl, Thursday, December 23, 2010, Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego, California, TV: ESPN
By Scotty L of Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Navy +3.5/SDSU -3.5
Over/Under Total: 60.5
In this years Poinsettia Bowl, the Navy Midshipmen meet the San Diego Aztecs in Qualcomm Stadiumthe homefield of the Aztecs. This is an interesting contrast in styles between Navys run-oriented, grind-em-out offense against San Diego States high-flying attack. It will be interesting to see which team will be able to impose their will.
Hats off to San Diego State head coach Brady Hoke, who has managed the impossibleturning around a perennial loser into a respectable team. This is San Diego States first bowl appearance in 12 years. The successes have been short and sweet since the Aztecs nearly beat Iowa in the Holiday Bowl under Denny Stolz in 1986. Iowa staged an unfathomable late comeback to beat the Aztecs, who were already celebrating wildly on the sidelines. Its as if this program never recovered from that. Longtime fans and supporters of the Aztecs will attest to the fact that following this team has been downright painful over the past nearly-quarter century.
At 9-3, Navy had a good campaign, despite not winning the Commander-in-Chiefs trophy for the first time in 7 yearsgiven to the top service academy in the nation, with Air Force taking that honor. They are led by top option quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who has rushed for 860 yards and 13 touchdowns. He threw for 186 against Army in their 31-17 win on Saturdaya seemingly modest total, but a boon in that matchup. In fact, Dobbs shows some sophistication in the passing game when they use it. But this is a ground team, led by Dobbs, Alexander Teich (137-825-5), and 3 other backs with 300 yards or more.
Hometown boy Ryan Lindley led the Aztecs this year with over 3500 yards passing and 26 touchdowns. Underlying a slight lack of utter dependability was a 56% completion and 14 interceptions. Still, he has been excellent in getting the ball to his best weapons. RB Ronnie Hillman ran for 1304 yards with 14 touchdowns and is a handful. The dangerous passing game features a pair of 1000-yard receivers in DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Browneach of who are averaging over 18 yards per catch. This offense is ranked 10th in nation in passing yards, while being 20th in total points and yards.
Defensively, the Aztecs have held up well, giving up 40 only to number-three TCUa game they only lost by 5 points. The defense, however, does not always play clutch, a fact that revealed itself in a loss to 1-4 BYU. This shortcoming really manifested against Utah, when the Aztecs couldnt put away a team that appeared to already have one foot in the grave. Allowing a big 4th-quarter comeback to a team struggling to find answers was disconcerting to say the least. The Aztecs, though, have showed a lot of pluck this year and look forward to taking that next step with a nice bowl win at home on December 23.
Navy will be looking to turn this game in a grog. Look for them to try to control clock and wear out the San Diego St. defense. On defense, they have playmakers like Wyatt Middleton who help this unit overachieve and play better than their rankings indicate. The respective results of both teams, however, favor San Diego State. They showed their upside in a 3-point loss at Missouri earlier this season and in defeating Air Forcea team that defeated Navy. In their last game, they pounded UNLV, 48-14.
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Navy had some good results, including an 18-point triumph over Notre Dame. To be fair, the Fighting Irish were in the midst of a swoon at that point. Most staggering was a 76-point performance against East Carolina. Their 3 losses, however, might be a better indication, as they lost to Maryland in their opener, Air Force, and lowly 1-6 Duke. In essence, they have not beaten a team as good as the Aztecs this year, while losing to a few teams that were actually worse. The Aztecs, meanwhile, have proven they can play at a level that surpasses what Navy is capable of delivering.
Scotty Ls Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Aztecs are playing on a field where they almost went undefeated, if not for a big 4th-quarter comeback by Utah. Being at home for a bowl game carries a bunch of advantages. Even without those edges, San Diego State seems like simply a far superior team on offense. Navy might be able to dilute this game and turn it into a draining ground battle. This strategy might achieve sporadic success, but their secondary, ranked 66th in the nation, has not seen the likes of Ryan Lindley and his slew of weapons.
Look for the Aztecs to take a lead and force Navy to come outside of themselves a bit. Playing from behind, Navy will have to air it out, but they cant compete with the Aztecs in this area. The Midshipmen will make a game of it, but sooner or later, they will be in a track meet they cannot win. Look for San Diego State to win going away.