San Jose State vs. Bowling Green: Military Bowl Breakdown
No. 24 San Jose St. (10-2) vs. Bowling Green (8-4)
Dec. 27, 3:00 p.m. ET (ESPN)
• Reason to watch: San Jose State isn't accustomed to being ranked in the Top 25. The Military Bowl has never hosted a top-25 team or a team riding a six-game winning streak. This game was supposed to pit a mid-level ACC team against either Army or a Conference USA foe; instead, it gets the Spartans, one of the finest comeback stories of 2012. Until Mike MacIntyre took over the program in 2008, the SJSU head-coaching job was a gig for old coaches looking for one final stop before retirement. But under MacIntyre -- who was hired at Colorado on Dec. 10 -- the team has transformed into a contender that won 10 games for just the third time in school history. Meanwhile, Bowling Green will return to a bowl game for the first time since 2009, its first appearance under coach Dave Clawson. The Falcons may be a bit rocky on offense, but they allow just 15.8 points per game on defense, a total that ranks eighth in the nation.
• Keep an eye on: Bowling Green defensive tackle Chris Jones. His teammates say he's a pretty quiet guy, but he's ferocious between the sidelines. The Football Writers Association of America named Jones a first-team All-America after he led the MAC with 12.5 sacks. He also tacked on five quarterback hurries, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
• Did you know: This is the second time that San Jose State's Kent Baer will serve as an interim head coach in a bowl game. In 2004, Baer was picked to be Notre Dame's temporary frontman after the Fighting Irish fired Tyrone Willingham. Notre Dame eventually lost to Oregon State, 38-21, in the Insight Bowl. The Military Bowl will also be Baer's final game with the program: He has agreed to join MacIntyre at Colorado.
• Final analysis: This game has the makeup of a defensive struggle: Two strong defenses and two unpredictable offenses will meet on a bitterly cold Washington D.C. afternoon. Even if the Spartans can contain Jones, SJSU quarterback David Fales will have his work cut out for him dissecting the nation's seventh-ranked pass defense. But even though the numbers appear to favor Bowling Green, this feels like San Jose State's game. The Falcons didn't face Northern Illinois in conference play this season, and they struggled to contain the run against Kent State. Fales -- perhaps the best quarterback the Falcons have faced this season -- and underrated running back De'Leon Eskridge will lead the Spartans to victory.
• The pick: San Jose State 27, Bowling Green 16