College Football Picks - 12/20/2012

Last Updated: 12/18/2012

December 20: Predictalator Picks  Paul's Analysis

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One team covers the spread 57%+ in today's bowl game to qualify as a Paul's Pick for Thursday, December 20.

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: BYU -3 @ San Diego State (Covers 57.3%)

The Vitals:
Projected Score: BYU 27.8 - SDSU 17.5
SU Pick and Win%: Arizona wins 59.8%
SU Confidence Rank (of 35 bowls): #17
ATS Pick and Win%: BYU -3 covers 57.3%
ATS Confidence Rank (of 35 bowls): #12
ATS Wager for $50 Player: $51
O/U Pick and Win%: UNDER (49.5) 53.8%
O/U Confidence Rank (of 35 bowls): #22
O/U Wager for $50 Player: $15

The Teams:

  BYU SDSU
Record 7-5 9-3
Avg. Points For vs. Against 29.2-14.7 35.1-24.5
Strength of Schedule Rank (of all FBS): #55 #90
Passing Efficiency Rank (of 120 in SOS-adjusted metric): #84 #70
Rushing Efficiency Rank #66 #30
Pass Defense Efficiency Rank #28 #61
Rush Defense Efficiency Rank #8 #50
Pass/Run Ratio 49%/51% 34%/66%
Turnover Margin Rank #87 #50

The Breakdown:
San Diego State gets full credit for having home field advantage yet still loses to a team with a weaker record in this year's Poinsettia Bowl game.

After quarterback Ryan Katz went down to injury against Nevada, San Diego State switched to 6'4", 210 lbs sophomore Adam Dingwell to lead the offense. With Dingwell at the helm, San Diego State finished the season 4-0 straight-up and 3-1 against-the-spread with wins over UNLV, at Boise, Air Force and at Wyoming. The young quarterback, who had thrown just one career pass before this year, is 71-of-115 (61.7%) for 795 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. He has also run for 96 yards on 35 carries. It's the rushing that may be most notable. San Diego State has turned into one of the most run-heavy teams in the country down the stretch this year, running the ball about two-thirds of the time and averaging 5.1 yards-per-carry. Two running backs - Adam Muema and Walter Kazee - topped 800 rushing yards a five yards-per-carry and both of them had multiple 100+ yard rushing games with Dingwell at quarterback.

That's the problem. BYU allowed just 2.7 yards-per-carry to opponents this season. Only Alabama (2.5 YPC) bettered that mark for the year. The Cougars faced four teams on the year that run more than they thrown - Boise State, Utah State, Notre Dame and Georgia Tech (all above average overall offenses). Those four (good) teams averaged 10.8 points-per-game in those contests. BYU also played a tougher schedule and, yet, still won by a greater average margin than San Diego State. 

Offensively, senior quarterback James Lark looks to start for BYU, while Riley Nelson, also a senior, is healthy enough to play if necessary. Collectively, those players have thrown for 2,545 yards, 21 TDs and 12 interceptions with a 5-4 SU and 6-3 ATS record. Having that experience at quarterback to take on an average (at best) pass defense will be important (Nelson has been part of the team for its three previous bowl wins, while Lark has been part of two straight bowl victories). The time off since the last game (November 24) should greatly aid the Cougars who struggled with many minor (and several major) injuries throughout the season. 

On a neutral field, especially with strong bowl coach Bronco Mendenhall leading the way, BYU would be expected to shut down the San Diego State offense and win by doube-digits. On the Aztecs' home turf, it still looks like a strong BYU victory in a low-scoring, defensively oriented game. It seems the market has caught on to this as BYU is now just a 3.5 point favorite. Even at that line, the Cougars are essentially worth a "normal" play ($45 play for a $50 player). 

College Football Picks Pages:

December 20: Predictalator Picks  Paul's Analysis
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