In the days of Vince McMahon, Steve Young, and Ty Detmer, a successful season culminated in a bowl trip before the holidays to San Diego.
The Holiday Bowl highlighted the season for both the team and the fans. In all, BYU has made 11 Holiday Bowl trips, winning four classics.
Now, the Cougars find themselves making another trip to San Diego, this time playing in tonight’s San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.
The Poinsettia Bowl may not have the prestige of the Holiday Bowl, but it will feature the premier early matchup this bowl season. The Cougars will face hometown San Diego State tonight. Kickoff is at 6 p.m.
BYU (7-5) finished the season below expectations, but, due to its affiliation with the Poinsettia Bowl, still earned a bid to the NCAA postseason.
While the Cougars lined up one of the best defenses in the nation, finishing third in total defense and fifth in scoring defense, the offense was unable to keep up, only averaging 29 points per game. That total put the Cougars in the middle of the NCAA, not nearly potent enough to propel the Cougars to a top tier bowl.
If styles make fights, the Cougars are in for one. BYU will face their exact opposite in the San Diego State Aztecs (9-3, 7-1).
The Aztecs feature a potent spread attack behind sophomore quarterback Adam Dingwell, but even more impressive is the Aztec run game featuring sophomore Adam Muema and senior Walter Kazee.
The pair combined for more than 2000 yards rushing.
Muema produced the bulk of the carries. The Aztecs rank 16th nationally in rushing the ball (229 yard average), but the Cougars are the second-best at stopping the run, only giving up 84 yards per game.
The Cougars could make up some ground against the porous Aztec defense, which finished in the middle of the nation in scoring.
This game is also a reboot of a hotly contested rivalry before the Cougars became football independent and left the Mountain West Conference.
The Cougars hold the series edge, 27-7-1, and have won the last five meetings.
The new rivalry may be a bit more civil than in the past considering the history of the two coaches.
Rocky Long, the second year head coach, was the long time head coach for New Mexico before leaving for Montezuma Mesa. His defensive coordinator was Bronco Mendenhall, BYU’s head coach.
BYU is the early favorite by a field goal, but in the bowl season that means little, especially considering the Aztecs home field advantage. Those hoping to follow tonight’s action can tune in to ESPN.
Basketball Non-conference winds down
November and December are used by college basketball programs to build resumes that, hopefully, are impressive enough to earn postseason bids. The process continues this week with a full slate of games that can boost the national profile for the local schools.
The highest-profile matchup will be Friday when BYU travels to Waco, Texas to face a dangerous Baylor Bears team. The Bears are coming off a successful campaign last year, reaching the regional finals in the NCAA tournament where they fell to eventual champion Kentucky.
The team needed to replace a trio of players selected in the NBA draft, but it still has playmaker Pierre Jackson, a senior point guard named an All-American last season.
The team also added a top recruit in freshman Isaiah Austin. The 7-1 center was a consensus top-5 recruit, and is the nephew of former Jazz player Ike Austin. The game will air on ESPN2 at 8 p.m.
Utah and Utah State will not have less important games this weekend, but will host a pair of teams in the top 100 RPI. Utah will host Cal State Northridge Friday night at the Huntsman Center Friday night. The Knights are contenders for the Big West title. The Utes sit in the middle of a crowded PAC-12.
The Aggies are hosting their own tournament this weekend. The featured game will come con Saturday when Utah State faces Southern Illinois.
The Salukis have fallen on hard times in the last years, despite a successful run at six straight NCAA tournaments from 2002-2007. But the program has rebounded early after last seasons eight win year, and will look to upset the Aggies on their home floor.