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Thursday, December 23, 2010
S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl: Navy (9-3) vs. S.D. State (8-4)

By Andrea Adelson

Quick: Who will be the home team in the S.D. County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl? San Diego State, playing in its home stadium, or Navy, playing in the shadow of a large naval base? Either way, this crowd is going to set a record for the biggest in the game’s history. Unfortunately, the teams are going to be playing on quite a soggy field after heavy rains left parts of Qualcomm Stadium under water. Crews were working furiously to pump the water off the field to get it ready for tonight. Here is a quick preview.

WHO TO WATCH: Navy QB Ricky Dobbs. There are so many great players to watch in this game, but Dobbs is the heart and soul of the Navy offense. As he improved his play and got healthy as the season went on, Navy played better. The Aztecs have had problems stopping the run at times during the season, but they were effective in a win earlier this season over Air Force, which employs a similar-style triple-option offense. Dobbs needs 140 yards rushing to become just the seventh quarterback in NCAA history to rush for 1,000 yards and pass for 1,000 yards in a season twice in a career.

WHAT TO WATCH: San Diego State running back Ronnie Hillman against the Navy defensive front. Hillman has emerged as a future star in his freshman season, running for 1,304 yards to become the first runner to surpass 1,000 rushing yards at the school since 2003. The Aztecs' offensive line has a size advantage on Navy, and that should open up some running lanes for Hillman. If that happens, play-action will open up for Ryan Lindley to find DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown. Tight end Gavin Escobar is a threat as well. Navy’s secondary has been sound because it hasn’t given up many big plays, but the Midshipmen haven’t been challenged this season the way they will be against Sampson and Brown. Hillman could take on greater importance if it rains and the field is sloppy.

WHY WATCH: There are compelling storylines all around. San Diego State is in its first bowl game since 1998. Navy is going for back-to-back 10-win seasons for the first time in program history. You have a pro-style offense against a triple-option offense, and two great head coaches in Brady Hoke and Ken Niumatalolo. Hoke has already had his name thrown around for some job openings. Though he got a raise and contract extension, Hoke has been mentioned in connection to Michigan, should that job come open.

PREDICTION: San Diego State 28, Navy 27. I think the Aztecs are going to be able to effectively use the play-action to win, with big games from Hillman, Sampson and Brown.