The Poinsettia Bowl is upon us. Now, the picks!
W. Keith Harten
In my office, water cooler conversation about this game has been the way it pits strength against strength. San Diego State has a strong running game, and BYU has one of the top rushing defenses in the country. That ought to make for some entertaining battles at the line of scrimmage, and I expect BYU to win more than they lose. In a perverse obsession with just how good this team could have been, the thing I am most excited to watch is how James Lark and his receivers perform if he really does get the start. Until the New Mexico State game, I had forgotten what yards after the catch looked like. Carefully-wrought analysis: if BYU can perform offensively, they win this game. My prediction: Just before running out of the tunnel, Bronco Mendenhall will turn to the team and make an Aragornian "For Chad Bunn" pledge and then rush onto the field. BYU 21-14
Matthew B. Mangum
In what turns out to be an interesting game to watch, Jamaal Williams will have a good day with over 100 yards rushing and a touchdown. If Lark starts at QB, I wouldn't be surprised to see two touchdown passes. BYU wins 21-17. If Riley Nelson starts and plays four quarters, I predict pandemonium and heartburn.
Brett C. Hein
James Lark starts and Riley Nelson is used in option packages only. San Diego State scores on a long TD pass and on a short field from a turnover. BYU's run game works well enough. BYU 20 SDSU 14
Adam S. Mangum
The Cougar D is going to be too much for the Aztecs, even though their rushing attack is solid. Jamaal Williams will have a big game (100+ yards and a TD), and James Lark will look solid if unspectacular. Kyle Van Noy is named bowl MVP after demolishing SDSU. BYU 17 SDSU 10
Jeremy L. Kidd
BYU should win this game, but it will take solid play on both sides of the ball. The Aztecs have a run-heavy offense, which bodes well for the Cougars, as they sport one of the nation's top rush defenses. If the Cougar offense can keep the turnover ratio at even or better, they should only need 24 points to win. I think that is more likely to happen with Lark as the starter, but is possible under Riley. BYU 24 SDSU 21
Gregg F. Johnstun (Guest Picker)
I'm not sure if I can be succinct with my prediction, but here goes:
Good: Jake Munns starts, and BYU loses 24-14.
Better: Riley Nelson starts under center and BYU loses 24-17. We all know about Riley's struggles against good teams, but did you know that against teams with a winning record, Nelson has a QBR of 79.7, averaging 176.8 YPG, completing 53% of his passes with 5 TDs to 9 INTs and 2 lost fumbles? He's averaging 2.8 turnovers a game; that's 1 score through the air for ever 2.2 turnovers. In case you were wondering, that's not good. Oh, and by the way, his record against teams with a winning record this year is 0-4. Contrarily, against teams with losing records, his stats are: QBR-145.6, YPG-242.3, CMP-65.2%, 7 TDs, 2 INTs, 0 Fum, TO/GM-0.5, TD-TO Ratio-3.5/1, and a record of 4-0. If Riley starts, it defies statistical logic to predict a BYU win, even for the most die-hard fans.
Best: James Lark starts and finds Hoffman for 3 TDs; BYU wins 28-24. I'm throwing darts blindfolded here as Lark doesn't have a significant body of work to adequately judge him by, but his rapport with Cody Hoffman was impressive against New Mexico State, even if it was NMSU. Lark may not have the grit that Nelson does, but it is obvious that he boasts the better arm accuracy and strength.
Worst: Bronco splits the starting QB load series-by-series with both Lark and Nelson seeing equal time. Did we seriously not learn from 2010? BYU loses in this scenario 24-10 as neither QB really gets into any kind of rhythm.
One statistic to note that doesn't bode well for BYU is the Bronco Mendenhall's record against teams with a Sagarin Top 50 Ranking this year is 1-4. BYU's only other loss this season was to Utah, currently ranked 51st by Sagarin. San Diego State is ranked 47th.* SDSU certainly isn't the best team BYU has faced this year, but taking into consideration BYU's struggles this year with better quality opponents, along with the fact that this is essentially a home game for SDSU with a hostile anti-BYU crowd, this will be a slug fest no matter what the scoreboard says once the final second ticks off.
Geoff G. Johnston
Poinsettia Bowl Prediction: BYU 20 SDSU 13. I am expecting BYU's vicious defense to generally maul the SDSU offense. But since SDSU is a solid team this year I figure 13 SDSU points is relatively safe number to predict. I don't expect anything earth shattering from Lark and the BYU offense so three touchdowns (with the obligatory missed extra point) seem about right. I expect we'll see some Riley Nelson in the game. And of course he'll be gritty. Hopefully he'll recover his own fumbles as usual. In the end BYU ought to prevail and that will some solace to the BYU fan base after an especially frustrating season.
Zachary B. Bloxham
It has been a long, tumultuous season in Provo. I would love nothing more than to see James Lark take all 70+ snaps during tonight's Poinsettia Bowl and lead the Cougars to a victory. While I do not doubt we will see Mr. Lark play a good portion of the snaps, I also do not doubt that he may prove to be more ineffective than we hope. Lark was terrific against New Mexico State but San Diego State and Rocky Long will provide the 12th year Senior with his biggest challenge yet. (Obviously) BYU's defense will play well per the script, but the Cougars inability to run the ball effectively and Lark's inability to make timely throws inside the redzone will cost the Cougs as drives will go empty thanks to a porous kicking game. Be prepared for one final, desperate shot of pure, unfiltered Riley Juice as the time winds down in the fourth quarter. SDSU 16 BYU 14 /dies
(General Authority Names at no additional charge. You are welcome, San Diego State.)