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Poinsettia Bowl preview

Editor's note: Brian Edwards has one selection tonight on the side for the Poinsettia Bowl. Brian is No. 1 on VI in college football winning percentage and No. 3 in overall money, going 56-36 (61%) to date. Don't miss out on any of his postseason picks!

Two familiar foes from their days in the WAC and Mountain West Conferences will collide Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego for the Poinsettia Bowl. San Diego St. will be bowling at home for the second time in three years, while BYU is in the postseason for the eighth straight season under Bronco Mendenhall.

Most books opened BYU (7-5 straight up, 6-6 against the spread) as a three-point favorite with a total of 49 ½. As of late Tuesday afternoon, most spots had the Cougars favored by 3.5 with the total down to 48 ½. Gamblers can take the Aztecs to win outright for a plus-155 return (risk $100 to win $155).

Since losing back-to-back games in September, San Diego St. (9-3 SU, 8-4 ATS) has won seven consecutive games while compiling a 6-1 spread record. Rocky Long’s team is gunning for the first eight-game winning streak in school history. The Aztecs closed the regular season with a 42-28 win at Wyoming as seven-point ‘chalk.’ Sophomore running back Adam Muema was the catalyst against the Cowboys, rushing for 255 yards and four touchdowns on 26 carries.

Muema enjoyed a banner campaign, rushing for 1,355 yards and 16 touchdowns while averaging 6.4 yards per carry. Senior RB Walter Kazee is also productive out of the backfield, tallying 822 rushing yards and eight TDs.

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Oregon St. transfer Ryan Katz was the starting QB until sustaining a season-ending ankle injury in an Oct. 20 win over Nevada. Katz had thrown for 13 touchdowns compared to four interceptions, but the Aztecs haven’t missed a beat with sophomore Adam Dingwell.

Dingwell has completed 61.7 percent of his throws for 795 yards with an 8/4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.

The San Diego St. offense will face a stout BYU defense which is ranked third in the nation overall and second against the run. The Cougars give up only 84.3 yards rushing per game and 14.7 points per contest.

BYU lost four of its six games against bowl-bound teams, going 3-3 ATS. The Cougars’ best wins came over Utah St. (6-3) at home and at Ga. Tech (41-17). They have been single-digit favorites four times, limping to a 0-4 spread record.

BYU won three of its last four games, including a 50-14 win at New Mexico St. as a 28-point road favorite. Senior QB James Lark made the most of his first career start, throwing for 384 yards and six TDs without an interception.

Mendenhall has been playing coy about who will get the starting nod under center. Riley Nelson (ribs) will be available after sitting out the regular-season finale but according to Jay Drew, BYU’s beat writer for the Salt Lake City-Tribune, he will be ‘stunned’ if Lark doesn’t start.

Nelson, the senior starting QB for most of the year, has a 13/12 TD-INT ratio. Meanwhile, Lark has eight TD passes without being picked off.

Junior WR Cody Hoffman is BYU’s best player on offense. Hoffman hauled in 90 receptions for 1,134 yards and 11 TDs. He is a physical wideout with excellent speed and an NFL future. Jamaal Williams paced the Cougars in rushing with 744 yards and 11 TDs.

San Diego St. went 3-1 ATS in four underdog situation this season, winning a pair of those games outright.

San Diego St. faced six bowl-bound squads this year, winning three of those games while going 4-2 ATS. The Aztecs won a pair of nail-biters at Nevada (39-38) and at Boise St. (21-19), and they also drilled Air Force by a 28-9 count as seven-point home ‘chalk.’

The ‘under’ has gone 6-5 overall for both teams this season. However, BYU has seen the ‘over’ hit a 3-1 clip in its last four games, while San Diego St. has watched the ‘under’ go 3-1 in its last four outings.

BYU has won five in a row over San Diego St. and nine of the last 10. The Cougars went 3-2 ATS in the head-to-head showdowns from 2006-2010, including a 24-21 triumph two seasons ago.

BYU has won three straight bowl games both SU and ATS, including last year’s 24-21 win over Tulsa as a 2 ½-point favorite in the Armed Forces Bowl.

San Diego St. lost a 32-30 decision to UL-Lafayette as a four-point favorite in last season’s New Orleans Bowl. However, the Aztecs won the Poinsettia Bowl two years ago by mauling Navy, 35-14, as three-point favorites.

Kickoff is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. Eastern on ESPN.

  
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