2010 San Diego County Credit
Navy (9-3) vs.
Thursday, December 23rd 8:00 ESPN
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Pick ATS: Boise State
Confidence Score: 51
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 15 out of 35
SCROLL DOWN to the bottom for all the CFNers' confidence picks and bowl history
By Pete Fiutak
All of a sudden, San Diego State might go from non-existent to a major player, and it could officially kick in with the program’s first bowl win since 1969.
With BYU and Utah leaving the Mountain West, and with TCU bailing for the Big East in 2012, there’s a major hole that needs to be filled in a conference that was on the verge of being great, but soon will look like an improved WAC. Air Force is solid, the addition of Boise State will give the league an anchor, and Fresno State, Nevada, and Hawaii are nice pickups from the top of the WAC pile, but if San Diego State was ready to make a move as a program and become special, the time is now. Head coach Brady Hoke came close to finishing off a phenomenal turnaround this year, and the future looks bright.
Hoke made a putrid Ball State program into a 12-0 MAC monster, at least until the turnovers started to spill out against Buffalo in the 2008 MAC Championship, and in no time he took a perennially underachieving San Diego State program that hadn’t come up with a winning season since 1998 to a place among the Mountain West elite. The score in the 40-35 loss to TCU made the game look closer than it really was, but still, the Aztecs managed to provide a major push to the unbeaten team that was on the cusp of playing for a national title. It took a miraculous pass play for Missouri to beat SDSU at home, and QB Ryan Lindley threw for 528 yards in a strange loss to Utah. Throw in the 24-21 hiccup at BYU, and the four losses all came by five points or fewer. While the 8-4 season was tremendous for a place starving for a winner, there was a win over Air Force, and … and … and … Colorado State?
The Aztecs might have come close in several big battles, but coffee’s for closers only. It’s one thing to fight the best teams, but it’s another thing to beat them. With a schedule littered with victories over the weak and the sad, a win over Navy would do wonders and might make San Diego State one of the hot teams going into 2011. Seven starters are back on offense and seven return on defense, as well as both kickers, and for the moment, Hoke will be back, too. But he’s a rental; he’s destined for a bigger name program.
Also certain to take over a big-time team in the near future is Ken Niumatalolo, who took what Paul Johnson started and ran with it. Navy might not be the running juggernaut it was in 2007, when it averaged 349 yards per game on the ground, but it managed to come up with close win over close win to be in the mix for its second straight ten-win season. Johnson only won ten games once.
There are two was to look at the Midshipmen so far. On the one hand, the offense wasn’t nearly as crisp as normal, QB Ricky Dobbs wasn’t the Heisman-caliber playmaker he was expected to be, and the team blew a chance at a truly gaudy record failing to punch it in for the win in the opening weekend loss to Maryland and gacked against a mediocre Duke team. The 9-3 record could very easily have been 11-1. On the other hand, the offense blew up for 76 points on East Carolina, there was a dominant win over Notre Dame, and yet another victory over Army. There were unnecessarily tight games against bad teams like Central Michigan and Wake Forest, but winning seven of the final eight games wasn’t bad.
While San Diego State needs to win the home bowl game to establish itself as a program and to come up with a real, live bowl win, Navy wants to keep the momentum going after shocking Missouri 35-13 in last year’s Texas Bowl. The knock on the Navy offense, as Georgia Tech found out against Iowa, is that it fizzles when defenses get time to prepare for it. That hasn’t been the case, though, against Navy, who has gone 4-4 in bowl games starting in 2003l but two of the losses came by a total of four points, when the attack worked, and one came in a good battle against Wake Forest in the 2008 EagleBank Bowl.
In the brief history of the Poinsettia Bowl, the games have been mostly interesting with the Mountain West winning four of the five battles. Who won the other one? Navy beat Colorado State in a 51-30 blasting in the inaugural game of 2005. This is a statement game for San Diego State and another entry on the résumé for Navy. Either way, it should be a bowl worth watching with plenty of offense and lots of storylines to chew on for the offseason.
Players to Watch: It’s the final game in the fantastic career of Navy quarterback Ricky Dobbs, who might not be destined for a pro career, but he has the makeup and the mettle to do far more important things. A consummate leader, he’s smart, tough, and proven on the field, and while he didn’t exactly build on his record-setting 1,203 rushing yard, 27 touchdown season of 2009, he wasn’t bad running for 860 yards and 13 scores while completing 55% of his passes for 1,380 yards and two touchdowns with five picks. He has a good enough arm to take big shots down the field, but in a perfect world, he’s carrying the ball 30 times. Navy is 12-1 when he runs for 100 yards or more including 166 yards and three scores against Missouri in last year’s Texas Bowl.
San Diego State has a strong running game, led by freshman Ronnie Hillman, but the offense is humming when Ryan Lindley is hooking up with his tremendous receiving duo. The Aztecs might come back loaded next year, but they’ll lose two key players in DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown, who both earned First Team All-Mountain West honors this year and were CFN Honorable Mention All-Americans. At 6-2 and 205 pounds, Sampson is a big playmaker who came up with 65 catches for 1,175 yards and eight touchdowns highlighted by 12 grabs against Utah. While he can hit the home run, he’s not a speedster and will have to fight to make a pro roster, but Brown is a mid-level pick with tremendous wheels and cutting ability. After missing the second half of last year with a broken thumb, he came back strong with 61 catches for 1,187 yards and nine touchdowns with 167 yards and two scores against TCU and 184 yards and three touchdowns against Utah.
Navy’s defense needed a new star to step up and shine in the linebacking corps, and senior Tyler Simmons did it. After finishing third on the team in tackles, even though he was a reserve, the 6-3, 237-pounder showed off great range and great tackling ability on the inside making 124 stops including 13 against Army, 17 against both East Carolina and Duke, and ten against Notre Dame. It’ll be his job to keep Hillman and the Aztec running game in check.
Navy will win if ... the running game works. Yeah, duh, it’s Navy, but the some of the worst days from the San Diego State run defense turned into two losses and a close call. Missouri didn’t run at all on the Aztecs, but Air Force battled down to the wire in a 27-25 loss with Tim Jefferson and the offense rolling for 312 yards on the ground. TCU ran for 226 yards, and BYU rumbled for 271 yards and three scores in wins. Utah was SDSU’s other loss, and while the Ute ground game only went for 138 yards, it scored three times. Air Force held on to the ball for 35:18 and was able to work inside and out, and Navy has to do the same. Long, grinding drives is a must, and the San Diego State linebackers have to come up with a bad game.
First Team All-Mountain West linebacker Miles Burris is a smart, tough defender and Leon McFadden and the defensive backs can tackle, so they and the rest of the Aztec back seven have to be chasing and they have to be on their heels. That means the Navy ground game will have to be quick-hitting and has to get moving before the quick defensive front can get into the backfield. SDSU was first in the Mountain West and fifth in the nation in tackles for loss, and Dobbs has to neutralize this by getting the ball out of hands in a hurry and making the game more North-South than East-West.
San Diego State will win if ... it doesn’t start turning the ball over. The Aztec offense isn’t that bad when it comes to mistakes, but the defense doesn’t take the ball away. Navy has had a few fumbling problems lately, relatively speaking for a normally stingy attack, but it’s not going to start giving it up enough for it to be an issue against this defense. SDSU QB Ryan Lindley can’t take chances and he has to take the dink and dunk passes Navy will give up. That’s easier said than done sometimes, as Missouri found out in last year’s Texas Bowl and Notre dame discovered this year, but the Aztecs have the balance and have the ingenuity to keep the Navy defense on its heels. However, it all goes downhill in a hurry if Navy starts getting easy chances.
Field position doesn’t always matter to Navy like it seems like it should. A longer field sometimes means nothing more than a longer scoring drive, because if the Midshipman offense is working, it’s working. Even so, San Diego State should keep the field tipped to the other side with Navy struggling with one of the nation’s worst punting games and a miserable punt return game, while SDSU punter Brian Stahovich is a special playmaker averaging 45.7 yards per boot, good for seventh in the nation.
What will happen: San Diego State will take advantage of the home field bowl game and will be jacked up to make a big, splashy showing. Navy’s offense will work. Having a far shorter layoff will be a big deal, having played Army on December 11th while SDSU’s last game was November 27th, and it’ll show as Dobbs and the ground game will control the game at times. However, SDSU’s defensive front will be active, Burris will come up with 15 tackles, and the Aztec offense will do just enough to keep the chains moving to keep the time of possession stat from getting too far out of whack.
CFN Prediction: San Diego State 34 … Navy 27 ... Line: San Diego State -5
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Poinsettia Bowl History
Utah 37, California 27
2008 TCU 17, Boise St 16
2007 Utah 35, Navy 32
2006 TCU 37, Northern Illinois 7
2005 Navy 51, Colorado State 30
Pick ATS: Confidence Score: 51
OVERALL CONFIDENCE (35 most - 1 least): 15 out of 35
Pete Fiutak: Pick ATS - Utah Pick Confidence -
- Mountain West old star, meet your replacement. Considering Boise State got hosed out of a BCS appearance, this isn't a bad matchup against the future Pac 12 member that could make future appearances here. It would've been great if Utah QB Jordan Wynn was healthy to make this a battle of young guns, but Terrence Cain is a good, veteran passer and the Utes will give the Broncos a game. An argument could be made that this is the best non-New Year's Day matchup.
Richard Cirminiello: Pick ATS -
Utah Pick Confidence -
- This is an interesting match up between former BCS busters, who had much higher postseason expectations at one time. There’ll be a lot of irony here, with the Utes exiting the Mountain West as the Broncos are set to arrive.
Matt Zemek: Pick ATS - Boise
State Pick Confidence -
- Laudable and admirable that college football bowl games brokered deals to make this matchup happen; would that this could happen for all bowl games. Expect Utah to be fired up in the first quarter; if the Utes max out, they can hang. That’s a big “if,” however.
Russ Mitchell: Pick ATS - Boise
State Pick Confidence -
- - How disappointed are you if you’re Boise State? Utah is living off its 2009 reputation and a very weak 2010 schedule. Hide the women and children for this one.
Barrett Sallee: Pick ATS - Boise
State Pick Confidence -
- The battle of two of most notable non-AQ teams of the BCS era. Watch out for the letdown, because this is not where Boise State wants to be.
Gabe Harris: Pick ATS - Boise
State Pick Confidence -
Brian Harbach: Pick ATS - Utah Pick Confidence -
Matthew Smith: Pick ATS - Utah Pick Confidence -
Billy Gomila: Pick ATS - Boise State Pick Confidence
Clucko (A coin flip): Pick ATS - Utah Pick Confidence