2014 Boca Raton Bowl and Poinsettia Bowl Previews

December 22, 2014

It isn’t often that I feel I will remember things going my way in Bowl Mania, but what transpired on December 22nd is one of them.

Memphis came through for me and things are looking pretty good for the time being. At 4-2 with 62 total points, I sit in third place in the Von Hugendong group. My dad still leads after day two.

Let’s take a look at the matchups taking place on December 23.

Boca Raton Bowl

Marshall vs. Northern Illinois (Tuesday, 6:30 PM ET – ESPN)

For the second straight day, college football fans will be entertained by a bowl game without a title sponsor being played in the Sunshine State. This matchup pits the MAC champion Huskies against the Conference USA title winning Thundering Herd, the only such game to feature two conference champions outside of the College Football Playoff. As such, this is one of the more interesting battles of the entire week. Like the Miami Beach Bowl, there should be a lot of scoring in this one.

On paper Marshall is the C-USA champion, but the Thundering Herd has been playing like anything but the best team in their conference as of late. In its last three contests, Marshall has had to come from behind to win twice and suffered its only loss of the season to Western Kentucky in overtime. Much of this can be attributed to poor ball security, because in all three games the Thundering Herd had more turnovers than their opponent. Unfortunately for Doc Holliday’s squad, no team has a better turnover margin in the MAC than Northern Illinois. The Huskies are opportunistic defensively and are fifth in the nation with just 12 turnovers when they have the ball on offense. Rod Carey’s team will be tested on both sides of the ball by Marshall’s powerful offense and stingy defense, but the Thundering Herd suffered some major chinks in the armor during the month of November.

It’s not easy to go undefeated for any team, a lesson that Marshall found out the hard way in 2014. It will be interesting to see if the Thundering Herd come out ready to play or are dreaming of what could have been had the Western Kentucky game gone differently. Northern Illinois looked dominant against Bowling Green in Detroit and has shown a tendency to do just enough to win games this season. I think that this game means more to the Huskies and as a result have them for 26 points in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 35-28 Northern Illinois

San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl

Navy vs. San Diego State (Tuesday, 9:30 PM ET – ESPN)

Exactly four years ago to the day, Navy faced San Diego State in the Poinsettia Bowl. Midshipmen fans will be hoping for a much different result the second time around, as Navy was pasted by the Aztecs 35-14 in 2010. San Diego State will enjoy a short trip to play in this one, but with the naval base being so close it may not feel like a home contest. Navy faces the shortest turnaround time of any team between its last regular season game and bowl game (10 days) but will likely be prepared as one of the most disciplined teams in college football.

Navy has had a trying year, dealing with a tough schedule and multiple injuries to key offensive players including quarterback Keenan Reynolds, who sat out two games this season. But this is still a Midshipmen team that head coach Ken Niumatalolo can be proud of leading out onto the field. As the least penalized team in the nation, Navy isn’t going to allow San Diego State many free yards. Additionally, the Midshipmen have shored up their secondary play and aren’t as vulnerable over the top as they have been in prior years. But the Aztecs prefer to get things done on the ground first and foremost, an area where Navy’s defense has struggled in 2014. Sophomore Donnel Pumphrey leads the Mountain West Conference in rushing yards this season and could overshadow the entire Navy offense with his skills. Priority number one for the Midshipmen defense will be slowing down Pumphrey, something that is easier said than done.

This game sets up eerily similar to the 2010 edition of this bowl game. Replacing Ronnie Hillman as the stud running back for San Diego State is Pumphrey. Replacing Ricky Dobbs as the dependable leader for Navy is Keenan Reynolds. The difference is that San Diego State doesn’t have quite the passing game this year and Navy is much better at defending the air attack. For this reason, I expect this game to be much tighter than in 2010 and even give the Midshipmen a slight edge. It’s probably because I’m actually rooting for Navy, but I have the Midshipmen for 1 point in Bowl Mania.

My Pick: 27-24 Navy

If you’d like to share your opinion on Around The Corn for any of the upcoming bowls, shoot me an email with your thoughts and prediction to kbecks@aroundthecorn.com. You can also like Around The Corn’s Facebook page or send me a tweet @KBecks_ATC. As long as you send your thoughts at least two days before the game is to be played, I can assure you that your thoughts will show up in an article.

– K. Becks

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