NCF Nation: Military Bowl keys 2012

Three keys for today's matchup between San Jose State and Bowling Green in the Military Bowl presented by Northrop Grumman.

1. Fales' safety: Quarterback David Fales makes San Jose State's offense go, completing more than 72 percent of his passes and regularly eclipsing 300 pass yards. But the Spartans must protect Fales from a ferocious Bowling Green pass rush led by defensive tackle Chris Jones, the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Jones averages more than a sack a game, tying for fourth nationally, and Bowling Green ranks ninth nationally in sacks (3.08 per game). San Jose State has faced some top pass-rushing teams like Stanford and Utah State, which recorded an astonishing 13 sacks against Fales in a 49-27 win. If the Spartans suffer similar breakdowns against Jones and the Falcons, they'll have a hard time keeping Fales on the field.

2. On the run: Both teams boast elite pass-rushers -- Bowling Green's Jones, San Jose State's Travis Johnson -- and quarterbacks who can put up big passing totals. The game could come down to which team runs the ball better. Falcons freshman Anthon Samuel ranks 44th nationally in rushing (87.8 ypg) but faces a Spartans defense ranked 19th nationally against the run (123.7 ypg). San Jose State received a big boost from running back De'Leon Eskridge in the regular-season finale against Louisiana Tech (217 rush yards, 3 TDs). Anything resembling that performance will help against a Bowling Green defense ranked 14th nationally against the run (116.7 ypg).

3. Measuring up: Bowling Green has made strides under coach Dave Clawson, improving its wins total from two to five to eight. But the Falcons are looking for a signature victory after dropping their first five games against ranked opponents during Clawson's tenure. They gave Florida a good test in the opener and enter the game on a hot streak, winning seven of eight to close the regular season. Bowling Green has dropped its past two bowl games, including a heartbreaker to Idaho in the 2009 Humanitarian Bowl. The MAC is improving as a league and Bowling Green has a chance to be in that elite mix, but it needs to punctuate the season by playing its best game against a good team on a bowl stage. Bowling Green needs an efficient performance from the offense (no turnovers or penalties) and a stout effort from the defense.

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