San Jose State (10-2) vs. Bowling Green (8-4)
Dec. 27, 3:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
About the Spartans: San Jose State's near-upset of Stanford the first week of the season ended up revealing a lot more about the Spartans than the Cardinal. Stanford was obviously a pretty good team all season, and so was San Jose State. San Jose State's only other loss this season was to Utah State, a good team in its own right. San Jose State finished the year with six straight wins, ending with victories against BYU and Louisiana Tech. The Spartans' success did cost them their coach, however, as Mike MacIntyre moved on to be Colorado's head coach. Defensive coordinator Kent Baer will coach the Military Bowl, and it has been widely reported he will then join Colorado's staff after the game.
About the Falcons: Unlike San Jose State, Bowling Green didn't have to deal with massive coaching upheaval before its bowl game. Dave Clawson was rumored to be a candidate for a few jobs but he is still with the Falcons. Bowling Green is led by its defense, which gave up more than 14 points just one time in its last eight games. The defensive star is Chris Jones, a defensive tackle who won MAC defensive player of the year honors. Jones has 12.5 sacks, which is third in the nation, and 19 tackles for loss. When he is double teamed, the rest of the defense is freed up to make plays.
Key number: 77
These defenses combined to sack the quarterback 77 times this year. San Jose State was fifth in FBS with 40 sacks and Bowling Green was ninth with 37. Bowling Green's Jones and San Jose State's Travis Johnson - each their respective conference's defensive player of the year - combined for 24.5 sacks.
The breakdown: The key matchup is Bowling Green's stingy defense against San Jose State's 11th ranked passing offense. Spartans junior quarterback David Fales, who was at junior college last year, was third in FBS in passing efficiency. He threw for 3,798 yards, 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Against BYU's elite defense he threw for 305 yards and three touchdowns. Bowling Green ranked seventh in FBS in pass defense and allowed just nine passing touchdowns, but will be tested against Fales.
Frank Schwab: Bowling Green 17, San Jose State 16
San Jose State had a great season, but Bowling Green comes in having won seven of its last eight behind a tremendous defense. If the Falcons' pass rush is as effective as it usually is, they can pull off the upset.
Graham Watson: San Jose State 21, Bowling Green 17
Both teams have had outstanding seasons, but I think San Jose State wins one final game for coach Mike MacIntyre. Even though MacIntyre won’t be there (since he took the Colorado job), he’s responsible for the amazing turnaround for the Spartans this season. They’re going for a record 11 wins and I don’t think they’ll let the opportunity slip.
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