Russ Isabella-US PRESSWIRE
San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl, 8 p.m. (ET) Dec. 20, ESPN
One of the exciting things about bowl games is that they usually feature two teams that rarely play one another. Things couldn't be anymore opposite in the Poinsettia Bowl. Brigham Young and San Diego State have played each other 35 times, most recently in 2010 (a 24-21 win by BYU). This is a matchup we all know, but remains a good one largely because of the NFL Draft prospects playing in the game. Here's a look at the NFL Draft storylines to follow:
When San Diego State has the football
Quietly, Brigham Young has one of the best pass rush combinations in the nation. End Ezekiel Ansah was a revelation this season and junior linebacker Kyle Van Noy now faces a decision about the NFL following a stellar junior season. Ansah gets a lot of attention of NFL Draft analysts, but it's Van Noy who is the better college player. A third-team All-American this season, Van Noy comes into the Poinsettia Bowl with 45 tackles with 18.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks.
Ansah's story has been told everywhere. He came to BYU from Ghana in hopes of being a basketball player. After the failed, he turned to track and then football. At 6-foot-6, 270 pounds, he may be the next Jason Pierre-Paul despite not starting until Week 5 of this season. He doesn't have the stats (just 4.5 sacks), but he's a dynamic athlete with a good first step.
Ansah and Van Noy will be tasked with stopping a San Diego State offense that can run and throw. Redshirt sophomore Adam Muema effortlessly replaced Ronnie Hillman this season, running for 1,300 yards. He's not expected to go pro, but will test Ansah's ability to play the run. Van Noy may be asked to cover SDSU All-American tight end Gavin Escobar. He's a big-play tight end who is still raw as a blocker. A good game, and Escobar could be joining Ansah at the Senior Bowl.
When BYU has the football
Unlike previous years, BYU's offense isn't centered around the run game. Instead, the top playmaker on offense is junior wide receiver Cody Hoffman. A big target at 6-foot-4, 215 pounds, Hoffman leads the Cougars with 90 receptions for 1,134 yards and 11 touchdowns. Hoffman has strung together three consecutive games of more than 100 yards receiving, but he was most impressive in the middle of the year. He topped 100 yards in October against Will Davis of Utah State and Jordan Poyer of Oregon State. Although likely to return for his senior season, Hoffman is a legit NFL prospect.
When BYU has to punt the ball, they have an NFL talent at punter in senior Riley Stephenson. He's among the nation's best punters, averaging 47.1 yards per kick.
Matchup to night: SDSU cornerback Leon McFadden vs. BYU wide receiver Cody Hoffman
San Diego State cornerback Leon McFadden may struggle some if he's matched up with Hoffman one-on-one. McFadden is certainly skilled, as evidenced by a Senior Bowl invite, but at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, he's not the most physical cornerback. Still, for a player who doesn't get thrown at often, McFadden is a playmaker. On the season, he had 52 tackles with three interceptions (two of which were taken back for touchdowns). Hoffman will get his catches, whether it's McFadden or Josh Wade covering him. What will be important for the SDSU cornerbacks will tackling technique.
And now, (topless) college football experts Jason Kirk and Spencer Hall in a hot tub talking about (previewing?) the Poinsettia Bowl: