San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl - BYU vs. San Diego State (8 p.m. ET Thursday, ESPN)
Bowl season starts up again on Thursday and, with games coming fast and furious after that, we thought we'd get a head start on previewing the upcoming games.
Rocky Long has closed strong in year two of his tenure in San Diego. The Aztecs have won seven straight, claimed a share of the Mountain West title, and became the first team to win at Boise State and Nevada in the same season in more than two decades.
San Diego State's defense has turned the corner in the second half of the year. The Aztecs allowed 31.8 points per game in their 2-3 start, which included a 38-34 loss to San Jose State and a 52-40 setback to Fresno State. Since then, San Diego State has limited opponents to 19.3 points per game.
San Diego State gets a de facto home game against BYU, as the Poinsettia Bowl is held in the Aztecs' own Qualcomm Stadium. BYU has won five straight in the series. This year marks the first time in program history that the Aztecs have played in three straight bowl games. A win would give San Diego State its first 10-win season and first eight-game winning streak since 1977.
BYU doesn't have as much historical significance riding on Thursday's game, but there's still a lot on the line for Bronco Mendenhall's team. A loss would snap the Cougars' three-game bowl winning streak and drop BYU to 7-6, a clear step backward from last year's 9-3 campaign.
BYU has a clear statistical edge on defense, ranking in FBS's top five in rushing defense, total defense and scoring defense. However, the Cougars went just 1-4 against bowl bound teams in 2012, only cracking the 20-point barrier twice in six tries. BYU will attempt to keep the score low against the 15th-ranked rushing attack in college football.