by CFP Staff (Excerpts courtesy of San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl).
The San Diego State Aztecs, ranked 35th in CollegeFootballPoll.com's Congrove Computer Rankings (CCR Top 120) face the 26th-ranked Naval Academy Midshipmen in the sixth annual San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
"This is a great day for college football in San Diego,” said Graves. “To have the hometown Aztecs in our homegrown bowl game is something very special. And for the Navy Midshipmen to be the opponent is icing on the cake."
San Diego State finished the regular season 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the Mountain West Conference to tie for third place, matching its highest finish in league history.
"We are excited to be playing a bowl game here in San Diego in front of our great students, fans and community," Head Coach Brady Hoke said. "We are playing a great opponent in Navy. They are a well-coached, disciplined team and play a very physical style of football."
This year’s game will mark the Aztecs’ first postseason bowl appearance since the 1998 Las Vegas Bowl. San Diego State is 1-4 in its previous five previous appearances in NCAA major college sanctioned bowl games. Its last and only victory came in the 1969 Pasadena Bowl vs. Boston University.
San Diego State’s high-powered offensive attack is led by junior quarterback Ryan Lindley, who ranks sixth nationally with 3,554 passing yards. He has 26 touchdown tosses and has thrown 14 interceptions.
Lindley's top targets are seniors Vincent Brown and DeMarco Sampson, both of whom have topped the 60-reception and 1,000-yard marks. Brown has 61 catches for 1,187 yards to rank 8th nationally in receiving yards. Sampson has caught 65 balls for 1,175 yards to rank 9th nationally in receiving yards. Brown has accounted for 9 scores while Sampson has 8 TD catches.
San Diego State also boasts the Mountain West Conference's Freshman of the Year in running back Ronnie Hillman, who set a league record with 1,304 yards on the ground, including five outings with 150 yards or more while scoring 14 touchdowns. Hillman ranks 12th nationally in rushing yards per game.
On the defensive side of the football, junior linebacker Miles Burris is the Mountain West Conference leader in sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (19.0). He has posted a team-high 74 tackles (49 solo) and forced four fumbles. His efforts earned him a spot on the all-MWC first team along with cornerback Leon McFadden, who leads the league in passes defended with 14.
Navy secured its automatic bid on November 6 when it steamrolled East Carolina 76-35 to reach the requisite 6-win plateau. The Midshipmen went on to record a stellar 9-3 campaign that featured its third victory over Notre Dame in the last four meetings. However, the Middies lost the Commander-In-Chief's trophy for the first time since 2002 when Air Force defeated both Navy and Army this season.
Navy is making an Academy record 8th straight bowl appearance and is 7-8-1 in its previous 16 postseason trips. The Midshipmen broke a 3-bowl losing streak with last year's 35-13 rout of Missouri in the Texas Bowl.
This year’s Poinsettia Bowl will mark the fourth time Navy has played in a San Diego bowl game. It is 2-1 in the previous three, having notched wins against BYU in the first Holiday Bowl in 1978, and Colorado State in the inaugural Poinsettia Bowl in 2005. The lone defeat came in the 2007 Poinsettia Bowl, when the Midshipmen fell 35-32 to Utah.
"Returning to San Diego is exciting for the entire Navy football family," said Naval Academy Director of Athletics Chet Gladchuk. "We have had nothing but great experiences participating in this wonderful event."
Navy has had one of the nation's top rushing offenses for several years and enters this contest ranked No. 5 in that department. Senior QB Ricky Dobbs leads the ground gainers with 860 yards and 13 TD's. Junior Alexander Teich trails closely with 825 yards with nearly half the attempts as Dobbs.
Dobbs has thrown the ball just 135 times all year, completing 54.8% of those throws for 1,380 yards, 12 TD's and just 5 picks.
Senior linebacker Tyler Simmons leads the defense in tackles with a whopping 124, including 6 tackles for loss and 2 sacks. As a unit, the defense is vulnerable as it ranks 66th in stopping either the pass or the run.
Meanwhile, San Diego State ranks 50th in run defense.
This could have the atmosphere of a home game for both participants. The Navy has approximately 90,000 personnel stationed in the area that serves as the home for the Pacific Fleet.
The computer projects San Diego State as the winner, but only by a mere 0.52 points.
The 2009 San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl featured a 37-27 Utah Utes victory over the California Golden Bears.
The football game will be played Thursday, December 23rd at 8 p.m. (ET) at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California and will be televised nationally on ESPN.