LOCKHEED MARTIN ARMED FORCES BOWL STORYLINES
1. Fans of the ground game won’t want to miss San Diego State’s Rashaad Penny match up against Army’s vaunted run attack at the Armed Forces Bowl Dec. 23 in Fort Worth, Texas. Penny received five All-American awards after leading the country in rushing yards (2,027) and adding 19 touchdowns on the ground. The talented senior saved his best for last, stringing together four straight 200-yard rushing efforts while scoring nine touchdowns over that stretch.
2. The Black Knights are no slouches themselves when it comes to producing high-level rushing performances as their 355.8 rushing yards per game led the entire nation, and they joined Navy as the only FBS schools this season to surpass 4,000 total yards on the ground. Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw was the most dangerous player for Army, rushing for 1,566 yards and 12 TDs. Eleven different Black Knights players had at least one rushing score this season.
3. Army comes into this one having played the role of cardiac kids a little too often for their own comfort in recent weeks, with five of their last six games decided by five or fewer points. And while the Black Knights are no worse for wear despite the spate of close games – going 4-1 in those contests – they were fortunate to escape with a 14-13 win against Navy in their annual December showdown to capture the Commander-in-Chief trophy for the first time in 1996.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, ESPN.
ABOUT SAN DIEGO STATE (10-2, 6-2 Mountain West): One-sided home losses to Boise State and Fresno State left the Aztecs searching for answers – and boy, did they find them in short order. Behind a highly motivated Penny, San Diego reeled off four consecutive routs to close the season, outscoring Hawaii, San Jose State, Nevada and New Mexico by a combined 110 points en route to their school-record eighth consecutive bowl appearance. Quarterback Christian Chapman will likely only be called upon to give Penny a rest, but acquitted himself well with 1,848 passing yards, 13 TDs and just three interceptions during the season.
ABOUT ARMY (9-3): There isn’t much more that can be said about the ultimate run-first offense – the Black Knights threw just 61 passes all year, completing 19 – but the defense is another story altogether, and one that Army fans should be pleased about heading into Dec. 23. Entering its date with Navy, Army allowed opponents to score points on just 70 percent of their red-zone visits – even with USC, and behind only Troy, TCU and Virginia Tech. The Black Knights were also one of the top teams in the country at securing the football, turning it over just nine times in 12 games – tied for third-fewest turnovers in Division I.