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Military Bowl preview: No. 24 San Jose State (10-2) vs. Bowling Green (8-4)

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Sports,College,Brian McNally

When » Thursday, 3 p.m.

Where » RFK Stadium

TV » ESPN

KEYS TO VICTORY

1 San Jose State's passing game » Junior quarterback David Fales ranks seventh in the NCAA in passing yards (3,798) and has 31 touchdown passes to nine interceptions. The Spartans have four receivers with at least 589 yards, including junior wide receiver Noel Grigsby (1,173, nine touchdowns). Bowling Green's secondary depth will be tested. But the Falcons intercepted 10 passes this season and rank seventh in the nation in pass defense (173 yards per game).

2 Bowling Green's ground attack » The best way to keep the ball out of the hands of San Jose State's playmakers is not to allow them to have the ball. Anthon Samuel rushed for 966 yards in 11 games and had 10 touchdowns for the Falcons. John Pettigrew is an effective runner himself with 503 yards and five touchdowns. And that's good because Bowling Green was 80th out of 124 FBS teams in passing offense. The Spartans ranked 19th in rushing defense (123.7 yards per game).

3 Special teams » The Falcons actually might have led in the second half of their game at No. 4 Florida if they hadn't missed two short field goals. Senior Stephen Stein and freshman Tyler Tate have combined to make just seven of 15 field goal attempts. Meanwhile, San Jose State freshman Austin Lopez has been money all season. He has hit all 15 of his field goal attempts -- though none from beyond 45 yards. He made four -- scoring all of the game's points -- in a win over Navy in Annapolis on Sept. 29, though the conditions were much warmer that day than they will be Thursday.

MATCHUPS TO WATCH

OL David Quessenberry (San Jose State)

The 6-foot-6, 295-pound senior anchors a solid offensive line. The left tackle was named first-team All-Western Athletic Conference along with junior Nicholas Kaspar, the right guard.

vs.

DL Chris Jones (Bowling Green)

The Mid-American Conference defensive player of the year had 12.5 sacks and 19 tackles for a loss and was named an Associated Press third-team All-American.

TE Ryan Otten (San Jose State)

The 6-6, 245-pound senior is an inviting target over the middle. He was the Spartans' second-leading receiver (706 yards) and caught four touchdown passes.

vs.

LB Gabe Martin (Bowling Green)

The sophomore led the Falcons with 69 tackles, including 8.5 for a loss and 4.5 sacks. The first-team All-MAC selection forced two fumbles and intercepted a pass.

DL Travis Johnson (San Jose State)

The senior lineman was the WAC defensive player of the year. He had 19 tackles for a loss and 12 sacks.

vs.

RB Anthon Samuel (Bowling Green)

The sophomore is a versatile presence. He's elusive in space and had 20 catches for 186 yards with a touchdown.

STATE OF THE TEAMS

San Jose State

There is more upheaval here than you would think for a team that is 10-2. The Spartans lost coach Mike MacIntyre when he took the same position at Colorado on Dec. 10. They hired Ron Caragher, formerly the coach at San Diego, last week, but Kent Baer, the team's defensive coordinator, will serve as the interim coach for the Military Bowl.

Bowling Green

It was a turnaround season under former Richmond coach Dave Clawson, now in his fourth year with the program. Bowling Green played in the Humanitarian Bowl in 2009 in Clawson's first year before slipping to 2-10 in 2010 and 5-7 last season. It then rose to second in the Mid-American Conference's East Division. The Falcons played at No. 4 Florida in the season opener and lost just 27-14.

EXAMINER PREDICTS

Don't underestimate the temporary harm a coaching change can unleash. But San Jose State has the more explosive offense and will hold on for the win.

San Jose State 30, Bowling Green 22

bmcnally@washingtonexaminer.com

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