Navy (9-3) vs. San Diego State (8-4) (-4.5)
Let’s see, Navy is coming to play in the biggest navy town in the country, only they’re playing the home town program with alumni and fans who haven’t seen them play in a bowl game since 1998. I’m thinking there is going to be a lot of partisan cheering for pretty much everything happening in the stadium no matter what. And really, could you wish anything better for the little brother of the Holiday Bowl?
SDSU also managed to beat back all the gentlemen callers for Brady Hoke, and if you know anything about SDSU’s program, that’s a big deal. Hoke seems determined to take a mid-major to the BCS level instead of just taking a BCS-conference job. Both Minnesota and Indiana showed serious interest, and even though I grew up rooting for SDSU, I’m an Indiana alum and would have loved the hire. But he said no to both, pretty early on too.
But the Aztecs have the benefit of a base of alumni that rarely leave the area and REALLY love a winner, so some one dropped five million bucks on the program to keep Hoke, as long as other donors would match the amount. And they’re pretty close already.
This is a program that could go big-time really soon if this keeps up. They’re recruiting in southern California, they have a rich and dedicated alumni base that just wants to win, and they’re the only division one game in town. The only thing holding them back is the fact that they don’t play on campus, and Qualcomm Stadium is a dump, but that’s not really SDSU’s fault.
The Aztecs already beat Air Force this year, showing they should be able to handle Navy’s triple option. And Rocky Long is a good enough coordinator that, with this kind of layoff, he should have his guys ready for everything.
Ryan Lindley might get a lot of press because he and Andy Dalton were the two best quarterbacks in the Mountain West this year, but it’s running back Ronnie Hillman who should have the huge day. SDSU’s offensive line is big, and Hillman, though only a freshman, is money. Al Borges may have done his best to kill offensive football altogether when he was at Indiana, but even he can’t screw this up.
Navy is going to have to hold onto the ball and kill a lot of clock. SDSU is still a little inexperienced, so if they start to feel the pressure because their possessions are limited, they might make some mistakes. But that’s a slim chance for the Midshipmen.
Otherwise, the real story is whether Hoke is going to be able to keep his staff together after this game. Al Borges’ name keeps coming up for the OC job at Florida even though he doesn’t have pro experience, and he’s Gary Crowton Lite in the booth. I haven’t heard any rumors, but I would also think Michigan would give Rocky Long a call since he’s a genius at running the 3-3-5 scheme that Rich Rodriguez loves, and I’m thinking GERG Robinson isn’t coming back. A major-conference pay bump is hard to turn down for guys like that.
But whatever. SDSU has had its best season in years, and I’m ecstatic for them. Hopefully this isn’t the last time I get to say that.
*Photo courtesy Dr. Saturday and whoever they got it from.