- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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San Jose State (10-2, 5-1 WAC) vs. Bowling Green (8-4, 6-2 MAC)
WHO TO WATCH: San Jose State quarterback David Fales. His debut season for the Spartans has been nothing short of spectacular. The junior-college transfer who began his career at Nevada leads the nation in completion percentage (72.1), ranks third in pass efficiency (170.9 rating) and has racked up 3,798 yards with 31 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He owns several team records, including single-season passing yards (3,798), passing touchdowns (31) and total offense (3,669). Fales has put himself on the NFL draft radar and sparked a San Jose State pass offense that ranks 11th nationally (327.5 ypg). He has two dynamic receivers in Noel Grigsby and Jabari Carr. Fales has eclipsed 200 pass yards in all 12 games and has eclipsed 300 pass yards six times.
WHAT TO WATCH: Bowling Green's pass rush against Fales and the San Jose State offense. The Falcons got here because of their pressuring defense, which ranks seventh nationally in yards allowed (289.7 ypg) and eighth in points allowed (15.75 ppg). Led by defensive tackle Chris Jones, the Mid-American Conference Defensive Player of the Year, Bowling Green ranks ninth nationally in sacks (3.08 per game) and 26th in tackles for loss (6.83 per game). Jones, who had 12.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss this season, is one of three first-team All-MAC selections for the Falcons, along with linebacker Gabe Martin and defensive back Jerry "BooBoo" Gates. San Jose State is just so-so at protecting Fales (72nd nationally in sacks allowed), so this is an area Bowling Green could exploit.
WHY TO WATCH: San Jose State boasts victories against Louisiana Tech, BYU and San Diego State and claimed its final six games to record 10 victories for the first time in a quarter-century. But the Spartans lost their coach, Mike MacIntyre, to Colorado, and defensive coordinator Kent Baer will coach the team in the bowl. San Jose State aims for its first 11-win season since 1940. Bowling Green is looking to legitimize itself and its league, which has struggled early in bowl season. The Falcons are 0-5 against ranked opponents under coach Dave Clawson. Like San Jose State, Bowling Green finished the season strong, winning seven of its final eight games after starting 1-3. And while San Jose State's offense receives more attention, the Falcons boast some weapons, too, including dynamic freshman running back Anthon Samuel (966 rush yards, 10 TDs).
PREDICTION: San Jose State 27, Bowling Green 21. It's tempting to go with defense over offense, and San Jose State is making the longer trip to Washington, D.C., but Fales will be the difference. Bowling Green defends the pass very well but didn't face the best quarterback in the MAC this year (Northern Illinois' Jordan Lynch). San Jose State's underrated defense performs well against the run (19th nationally) and will limit Samuel and the Falcons. Fales and his receivers turn in a big second half as the Spartans record win No. 11.