SMU coach June Jones and Army coach Rich Ellerson go way back to their playing days in Hawaii, and the Mustangs are playing on their home field in the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl on Thursday. But that is the only bit of familiarity in this game. The two teams run distinct offenses and are newcomers to the recent bowl scene. The Mustangs are in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since 1983-84, while Army is in a bowl game for the first time since 1996. SMU is not exactly thrilled about the opportunity to stay at home for its bowl game, so motivation could be a factor for the Mustangs.
WHO TO WATCH: SMU QB Kyle Padron. The last time we saw him, Padron was getting hammered into the ground by an aggressive UCF defense in the Conference USA championship game. He finished with 220 yards passing and completed a season-low 52.9 percent of his passes while throwing two interceptions. SMU needs a good game out of him because he makes the run 'n' shoot offense go. He did throw for more than 3,500 yards this season, so he has the talent.
WHAT TO WATCH: SMU defense versus Army triple option. SMU faced one triple-option team already this season -- losing 28-21 to Navy in October in a seesaw game. The Mustangs gave up 253 yards rushing, but were able to contain Navy in the first half, holding the Midshipmen without a point. But SMU had problems with the outside pitches, and you can bet that was a point of emphasis going into this game. The linebackers especially are going to have to stay disciplined and limit the big plays on the ground to contain this offense.
WHY TO WATCH: Classic matchup of passing versus running in this one should make it quite an interesting battle. Army has had a resurgent season, and SMU is making steady progress under Jones after the wasteland that defined the program following devastating NCAA sanctions in the 1980s.
PREDICTION:SMU 30, Army 20. The Mustangs have more talent and are more explosive on offense with the run 'n' shoot and that makes the difference in the game.