BYU will face former Mountain West rival San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl on Thursday night, December 20, at 8:00 PM at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego. The teams last met in 2010 when a 24-21 victory lifted BYU's all-time record in the series to 27-7-1 and 9-1 in the last 10 matchups.
"This is a great day for college football in San Diego," said 2012 Poinsettia Bowl president John Wertz when the pairing was announced on November 27. "We're excited to renew a longtime rivalry between the Aztecs and Cougars in this year's bowl. This most certainly will be a game to remember for many years to come."
BYU accepted its bid on November 11 when it improved to 6-4 with a 52-13 rout of Idaho. The Cougars had an automatic tie-in to the Poinsettia Bowl if it they weren't going to be in consideration for a BCS game.
San Diego State accepted its bid on November 27 after finishing the regular season at 9-3.
The Congrove Computer Rankings give Brigham Young a 7.67-point advantage in the contest after its preseason forecast predicted an 8-4 season for San Diego State and a 10-2 year for the Cougars.
This year's game marks the third straight bowl appearance for the Aztecs. They played in the 2010 Poinsettia Bowl, beating the Navy Midshipmen 35-14 in front of 48,049 fans, the largest crowd in the seven-year history of the game. Last year, they were upset by the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns 32-30 in the New Orleans Bowl.
SDSU brings a 7-game winning streak into the game after opening the season at 2-3.
The Aztecs are currently ranked 15th in the nation in rushing (229.17) with much of that yardage attributable to sophomore running back Adam Muema, who leads the team with 1,355 yards (112.92 pg) and 16 TD's. QB Ryan Katz suffered a broken ankle in the 39-38 overtime win over Nevada on October 20, ending the senior's collegiate playing career. Sophomore Adam Dingwell took over and completed 61.7 percent of his passes with 8 TD's and 4 INT's.
On the defensive side of the ball, the Aztecs rank 2nd in the Mountain West in rushing defense, holding their opponents to just 140.25 yards per game, as well as recording seven tackles for loss (TFL) per game. The defense is led by junior defensive back Nat Berhe and sophomore linebacker Jake Fely. Berhe leads the team with 87 tackles to go along with 2 interceptions and 2 TFL. Fely has recorded 86 tackles on the year, including 11 tackles for loss and a team-high seven quarterback sacks.
San Diego State is 2-5 all-time in bowl games.
BYU has played in San Diego before, participating in eleven Holiday Bowls. However, the last one came in 1993 when the Cougars lost 28-21 to Ohio State. In the 1984 game, the Cougars defeated the Michigan Wolverines 24-17 to finish their season undefeated and clinch a National Championship.
"It’s been 19 years since BYU last played in a San Diego bowl game," said Wertz. "We can’t wait to roll out the red carpet and welcome back some old friends to our city - the Cougars and their legions of fans."
BYU's strength is its defense, ranking 3rd nationally by allowing just 266.3 yards per game. Senior linebacker Brandon Ogletree has 91 tackles including 10.5 TFL. Junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy as 18.5 TFL and is the sack leader with 11.5. Senior linebacker Ezekial Ansah has 13 TFL.
The BYU offense ranks 56th in the nation with freshman Jamaal Williams leading the ground game (744 yards, 11 TD's) and an inconsistent Riley Nelson passing 2,011 yards with 13 TD's and 12 INT's. A rib injury made way for James Lark to start the season finale against New Mexico State and Lark responded by throwing for 6 TD's and 0 INT's in a 50-14 blowout. Over-all, Lark has thrown 8 TD passes and 0 INT's. Junior wide receiver Cody Hoffman has at least one reception in 30 consecutive games.
This will mark the 31st bowl appearance in BYU's history. The Cougars improved to 12-17-1 with a 24-21 defeat of Tulsa in the 2011 Armed Forces Bowl.