San Jose State (10-2) vs. Bowling Green (8-4)
Thursday, December 27, 3 p.m. (et)
The Sports Network
By Lucas Gulotta, Associate College Football Editor
GAME NOTES: The Bowling Green Falcons will try to slow down the San Jose State Spartans when the two teams meet for the first time in the 2012 Military Bowl at RFK Stadium in Washington, D.C.
The Spartans will be making their first appearance since coach Mike MacIntyre bolted to fill the vacant head coaching position at Colorado. Kent Baer, the team's defensive coordinator since 2010, will serve as interim head coach for the bowl game before Ron Caragher steps in to replace MacIntyre next season.
"Coach MacIntyre put a plan in place and that plan is being executed. We're going forward with it and do our very best to win this bowl game and make it 11 wins this season," said Baer.
Baer is going to be leading one of the hottest teams in the nation as San Jose State enters on a six-game win streak. It closed out the regular season with a 52-43 victory over Louisiana Tech to finish 10-2 overall and 5-1 in Western Athletic Conference action.
Dave Clawson's Falcons had a very impressive season following their 5-7 finish last year. Thanks to a stingy defense, BGSU went 8-4 overall and 6-2 in Mid- American Conference play. It has also won seven of its last eight games, with the only loss coming against 25th-ranked Kent State. The Falcons had not finished a regular season with eight wins since 2007.
While this is indeed the first meeting between these two teams, both have a win over Idaho this year, with BGSU logging its first win of the season in a 27-13 home triumph over the Vandals, and SJSU becoming bowl-eligible with a 42-13 victory in Moscow.
San Jose State has had very little trouble moving the ball this season, thanks to its stellar aerial attack which ranks 11th in the FBS with 327.5 passing yards per game. The Spartans are averaging 451.7 yards of total offense and 35.3 points per game.
"What makes them so difficult to defend is number one they have great personnel. Every one of their offensive skill players is an all-conference player. Secondly, their offensive scheme is very well thought out. If you load the box and try to take away the run they have a lot of quick easy access throws and the second you spread out with them they've got a very physical offensive line that will cover you up and a running back that rushed for 1,000 yards. This is a complete football team." said Clawson.
SJSU's offense is guided by junior QB David Fales, who finished the regular season with 3,798 yards, 31 touchdowns, and 9 interceptions on 294-of-408 passing in his first season as the team's full-time starter. Fales closed out the last four games of the Spartans' schedule with 14 touchdowns to 4 interceptions, and he only had one game all year with multiple picks.
Noel Grisby and Ryan Otten are the top two options in the passing game for the Spartans. Grisby reeled in 73 receptions for 1,173 yards and 9 scores to finish third in the WAC in receiving, while Otten was the league's sixth-most productive wideout with 706 yards and 4 TDs on 44 grabs. Chandler Jones was the team's top red-zone threat with 10 touchdown grabs.
De'Leon Eskridge is the feature back in SJSU's offense. He showed how dangerous he can be in the regular-season finale against Louisiana Tech by racking up 217 yards and 3 touchdowns on 28 attempts.
The Spartans are also very good on the defensive side of the ball as they limit their opponents to 351.4 yards and 21.4 points per game.
"They get good penetration with their front four," said BGSU QB Matt Schilz. "You know they have experience. Their front four makes it easier for their secondary to cover."
Travis Johnson did an outstanding job in the trenches with a WAC-best 12 sacks, while Travis Raciti (7.5) and Anthony Larceval (6.5) finished second and third, respectively, in the league in sacks. Johnson was named the WAC Defensive Player of the Year for his efforts.
Keith Smith registered a team-best 87 tackles, while Vince Buhagiar (82) and Cullen Newsome (81) both tallied more than 80 stops as well. Bene Benwikere is a big-time playmaker in the secondary with 7 interceptions and a defensive score.
BGSU was not an overly impressive team on the offensive side of the ball, but Schilz and sophomore tailback Anthon Samuel helped the team average 373.9 yards and 23.2 points per contest.
Schilz is in his third year as the team's starter under center, and the junior has amassed 7,673 yards and 50 touchdowns in his BGSU career, and is currently on a streak of 31 consecutive starts. Chris Gallon (657 yards, 6 TDs, 47 receptions) and Shaun Joplin (629 yards, 4 TDs, 39 receptions) are the two most frequent targets in the passing game for the team.
Samuel, who was the MAC Freshman of the Year in 2011, is just 34 yards shy of becoming the eighth player in school history to surpass the 1,000-yard mark on the ground in a single season. The speedy sophomore will be looking to bounce back after finishing with negative-four rushing yards in the season finale versus Buffalo.
BGSU booked its ticket to this bowl game through a dominating defensive effort. The Falcons rank seventh in the nation in total defense, allowing only 289.7 yards per game. They showed balance by finishing seventh in the FBS in pass defense (173), ninth in scoring defense (15.8), and 14th in rush defense (116.7).
Defensive tackle Chris Jones is the anchor up front, having logged 12.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss.
Although the Falcons have one of the top defenses in the country, they did not have a tackler finish in the top-35 in the MAC, which hints at how balanced and deep they are on that side of the ball.
BGSU's strong defensive unit may be able to keep it in the game, but it does not have enough offensive firepower to keep up with the Spartans. The Falcons will need to force a few turnovers and make some big plays in special teams to take a SJSU squad that is stellar on both sides of the ball.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: San Jose State 27, Bowling Green 20
12/24 14:18:01 ET