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NCAA Bowl Game Preview: BYU vs. SDSU, UCF vs. Ball State

With NFL games now absent from Thursday nights, football fans don’t have to go without their fix and can now enjoy an NCAA bowl game over the next few weeks. For this week, it begins with BYU (7-5) vs. San Diego State (9-3, 7-1) in the San Diego Credit Union Poinsetta Bowl followed by Friday’s  UCF (9-4, 7-1) vs. Ball St. (9-3, 6-2) in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl St. Petersburg.

Poinsetta Bowl

SDSU RB Adam Muema

These teams have a history of playing one another after sharing a conference from 1978 until last year. Their last meeting was in 2010 and the Cougars won 24-21.

This year they’ll try to snap San Diego State’s seven-game win streak and their hopes for an eighth straight win–a first since 1975.

Second-year coach Rocky Long took over for Brady Hoke who jumped ship for Michigan and in his first season, he went 8-5, 4-3 but with this year’s 7-1 conference record, he has been named Mountain West coach of the year.

The Aztecs have sophomore quarterback Adam Dingwell pinch hitting for senior Ryan Katz after he went down on Oct. 20 with an ankle injury. He led his team to an OT win over Nevada and never looked back, going undefeated in his four starts including an upset of then-No. 19 Boise State on Nov. 3.

In his short career, Dingwell has a 63.3 percent pass completion, 767 yards, eight touchdowns and four picks this season.

His weapon of choice is sophomore running back Adam Muema. In the regular season, he had 1,355 rushing yards and 17 total touchdowns. He recently peaked and against Wyoming on Nov. 24, he had career-bests of 26 for 255 yards with four touchdowns.

Good luck against the Cougars defense who is No. 3 in the FBS overall with its 266.3 yards allowed per game and No. 2 against the run (84.3). BYU’s opponents have only averaged 14.7 points.

As for BYU’s offense, there’s a quarterback dilemma. Senior Riley Nelson is nursing a rib injury and senior backup James Lark is playing well, going 34 for 50, 384 yards and six scores in his first start on Nov. 24.

There’s no question wide receiver Cody Hoffman is their offensive weapon. He plays well in bowl games with his 16 catches for 259 yards and six touchdown in two of them and in this year’s regular season, he’s had 90 receptions, 1,134 yards and 11 scores, setting school records along the way.

History is on the Cougar’s side with its 27-7-1 record against the Aztecs. Look for the trend to continue with another Cougar win this year (-3.5, 48 o/u).

Beef ‘O’ Brady

CFU QB Blake Bortles

UCF will put a disappointing conference game title loss behind them but it could be a tough game its opponent is very similar offensively.

Fortunately UCF can score, averaging 35.2 points.

Sophomore quarterback Blake Bortles has passed for 2,787 yards, 22 touchdowns and seven picks this season. But running is the name of the game for his team with running back Latavius Murray dominating with 1,035 rushing yards and 14 touchdowns but he’s been in a slump lately.

No worries. This team has five players capable of rushing for 162 yards with 31 combined touchdowns including seven from Bortles.

This could bode well for Friday’s game as Ball St.’s defense has allowed 205.8 ground yards per game and 217.7 yards passing.

The Cardinals junior quarterback Keith Wenning has 2,878 passing yards, 22 touchdowns and 10 picks. While his weapon of choice is sophomore Jahwan Edwards with his 1,321 ground yards and 14 touchdowns, whether this duo plays together is unknown. Wenning is recovering from a Nov. 14 ankle injury and he may not play on Friday.

If he’s out, freshman quarterback Kyle Kamman will get the nod.

With Kamman, the Cardinals will likely rely on running, which has a 214.3 yard average and a second talented running back, Horactio Banks; he’s run for 585 yards over 10 games.

UCF played in the 2009 Beef ‘O’ Brady Bowl back and lost 45-24 to Rutgers. Look for them to avenge their loss (-7, 61.5 o/u).

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