Posted by Tom Fornelli as part of the blog's Bowl Bonanza series.
The Basics: Army (6-6) vs. SMU (7-6), Dec. 30 Noon EST
Why You Should Watch: You should tun into the Armed Forced Bowl because you generally don't get a lot of chances to see Army and SMU in bowl games these days. This will be the first time Army has played in a bowl since 1996, and this is only the second time that SMU has been in a bowl game over the last 25 years, or since Eric Dickerson and Craig James were getting paid. If that's not enough there's also the contrast in styles of both teams, as Army runs the triple option and SMU is a run and shoot team.
Keys to Victory for Army: The strategy for Army to win this game is simple, yet won't be nearly as easy to execute. It simply needs to keep the SMU offense off the field as much as possible. While Army should be proud to be back in a bowl game, the fact of the matter is that they just don't have the talent and depth that SMU has, and can't afford to get into any kind of shootout.
Still, there's reason to believe Army can be successful. SMU's defense had a lot of trouble stopping Navy's offense earlier this season, particularly the pitch on the option as Navy rushed for 253 yards in a 28-21 victory over the Mustangs.
Trent Steelman and the Army offense will have to have a similar game and hold on to the ball to have any chance of winning in this game. They just simply don't have the depth on defense, particularly in the secondary, to keep the Mustangs passing attack in check.
Keys to Victory for SMU: Stop the option. SMU has spent a lot of time in practice trying to fix the mistakes of the Navy game and work on their defensive assignments against the option. If they can keep Army from running all over them, the Mustangs should come away with the victory.
After all, this game will be played in SMU's home stadium.
When SMU has the ball they should look to exploit any Army linebacker forced into coverage as they just don't have the agility to stay with SMU's slot receivers Darius Johnson and Cole Beasley. Another key will be to pick up the blitz, as odds are that Army will blitz a lot to make up for its secondary. Kyle Padron has had some trouble when pressured this season, so giving him time to find his open receiver will be key.
The Mustangs should also look to use the run game to slow down the blitz, as they've been more successful on the ground than you'd expect from a June Jones offense. Zach Line isn't going to break any long runs, but he is a big, bruising back that can be used to soften the Army defense and cause linebackers to hesitate on play action, therefore opening up more lanes in the secondary for receivers.
The Armed Forces Bowl is like: that old t-shirt you found in the back of the closet. You haven't worn the thing in a long time, and it's no longer in fashion, but it still fits and it's awfully comfortable.