Posted by Tom Fornelli
SAN DIEGO STATE WILL WIN IF: The Aztecs are appearing in back-to-back bowl games for the first time since the 1966-67 seasons, and they'd like to make it two consecutive bowl victories as well. To do this the Aztecs should look to exploit a Louisiana-Lafayette defense that isn't exactly top-notch. The Cajuns allowed nearly 30 points a game this season, and allowed 25 rushing touchdowns. Which means that Ronnie Hillman should find some space to run for San Diego State. Not that Ryan Lindley won't have chances of his own, as the Cajuns allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete over 63% of their passes for an average of 7 yards a pop on defense. As for San Diego State's defense, the biggest test will be slowing Blaine Gautier. The majority of the damage the Cajuns do on offense is threw the air, so getting pressure on Gautier to disrupt his rhythmn will make life a lot easier.
LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE WILL WIN IF: The biggest challenge for the Cajuns in this one will be the fact that they're strength (passing offense) is going against a strength of San Diego State (passing defense). Blaine Gautier finished the season with 2,488 yards and 20 touchdowns with only 5 interceptions, but the San Diego State defense is in the top 50 nationally and second in the Mountain West in defensive pass efficiency. While the Aztecs gave up 15 touchdowns through the air this season, they also picked off 14 passes. The Aztecs also led the MWC with 28 sacks this season. Which means the Cajuns would be helped quite a bit if freshman running back Alonzo Harris can find some success on the ground and not let the Aztecs defense key on the passing game.
X-FACTOR: Ronnie Hillman. Though he's only a sophomore, Hillman managed to finish the 2011 regular season third nationally with 1,656 rushing touchdowns, and he was also sixth in touchdowns with 19. He is the key component of the San Diego State offense, and unless a Cajuns defense that's allowing 144.5 yards per game on the ground can figure out a way to stop him, then this game may not be all that close.