Bowl season at West Point may as well be a short game week.
Thanks to Navy’s unique schedule and bowl arrangement, the Midshipmen won’t have the normal off hours to sit back, stretch and enjoy bowl swag.
After defeating Army on Dec. 13, Navy will have 10 days between its regular season finale and its bowl, tied for the quickest turnaround between a regular season game and a bowl in college football history. In recent years, Navy has played its annual game with Army a week after the conference championship games. Only this season, that game has run right up to to Navy’s contracted bowl.
Navy is also squeezing finals into its hectic schedule, including exams on the Wednesday and Thursday before the Army game and the Monday through Thursday after.
In all, Navy will spend only three full days in San Diego before the bowl game on Dec. 23.
Meanwhile, opponent San Diego State completed its regular season on Nov. 29, giving the Aztecs more than three weeks since its last game — not to mention shorter travel.
Navy vs. San Diego State
Kickoff: Dec. 23, 8:30 p.m.
Spread: San Diego State by 3
Navy’s Key to Victory: Keenan Reynolds
Navy will be in good shape if its quarterback is the best player on the field, and that generally means Keenan Reynolds is finding the end zone. Reynolds carries the career (64) and single-season (31 in 2013) records for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback despite missing two games this season. And if Reynolds is running, Navy’s probably winning. Reynolds has attempted 10 or more passes in four games this season; the Midshipmen have lost all four. San Diego State has a solid defense, ranking second in the Mountain West in yards allowed per carry (3.8).
San Diego State’s Key to Victory: Stop the fullback ... despite playing shorthanded
San Diego State coach Rocky Long made clear what he believes is the key to slowing Navy in the flexbone, and it’s not the 1,000-yard quarterback with 21 touchdowns. “If the fullback gets going, everything else works,” Long said. “You have to make him only get three yards a carry.” Navy fullback Noah Copeland is averaging 7.6 yards per carry this season. Only four teams have held him to fewer than four yards per carry, and Navy is 2-2 in those games. San Diego State will have to defend the fullback and the option without tackle Alex Barrett, the Aztecs’ top defensive lineman.
The layoff for San Diego State and lack thereof for Navy makes for an interesting storyline, and the Aztecs’ injury situation will be worth watching. That said, this game may come down to which team is able to sustain drives. With the option, Navy will get its rushing yards. So will San Diego State. The Aztecs have the top rusher in the Mountain West in Donnell Pumphrey (1,755 yards, 19 touchdowns). He’ll be running behind a line that should have a size advantage against Navy’s front. That may be the difference for San Diego State.
Prediction: San Diego State 27, Navy 20