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2012 Poinsettia Bowl: San Diego State, BYU Players to watch

Two old Mountain West foes reunite for a matchup in Thursday's Poinsettia Bowl.

Ronald Martinez

Two old Mountain West foes reunite for a matchup in Thursday's Poinsettia Bowl.

The 2012 Poinsettia Bowl kicks off Thursday night at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN, and he is a quick primer of players to watch for tonight's game between San Diego State and BYU. This game features some serious defensive talent, and a few offensive playmakers for this game.

One thing that is likely certain is that this game will be a loser scoring game, and it could be the first team to 24 points to who gets the win. As for the two teams, BYU says this is not a rival despite the two teams having a lengthy history when the two schools were in the WAC and Mountain West. That is partly true since BYU has dominated the series.

Before we get to the players to watch, lets begin by discussing the big matchup of the game.

BYU WR Cody Hoffman vs. San Diego State CB Leon McFadden:

This is a matchup of a pair of NFL ready players and will be an amazing matchup to watch. McFadden has three interceptions, two for touchdowns and he has broken up 10 passes. Despite that success look for BYU quarterback James Lark -- or Riley Nelson -- to still force the ball Hoffman's way.

On the year, Hoffman has 90 receptions for 1,134 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is far and away the best offensive threat for BYU. With an actual quarterback throwing him the ball on Thursday, Hoffman could be even more dangerous. The big issue in this matchup is that McFadden is slight at 5-foot-10, 190 pounds, and Hoffman is a towering 6-foot-4 so he will get his catches. McFadden is a solid tackler, he has 52 on the year, and he will need to grab Hoffman and take him down.

Players to watch:

1. Kyle Van Noy, linebacker, BYU: Van Noy is a junior who has a decision to make about the NFL draft, so that just means he will be a force against San Diego State. He is a huge playmaker who has 18.5 tackles for loss and 11.5 sacks, and he just finds away to get to the backfield. He is a player who will get to the quarterback and make huge hits, he also has five forced fumbles, and five passes broken up.

2. Ziggy Ansah, defensive end, BYU: A future first round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft is a huge leap from a player who had issues putting on his pads just two years ago. Ansah is a physical specimen who also has speed off the edge, this year he has 13.0 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, eight passes broken up. Basically the entire BYU front seven will cause some issues for San Diego State.

3. Adam Muema, running back, San Diego State: With Walter Kazee out with a torn ACL, so Muema will have to take on the rushing load almost all by himself. Muema scored 16 touchdowns on 1,355 yards, and should be able to make a dent in that BYU front seven. This is possibly the best running back that they have seen all year, however BYU did shutdown Georgia Tech's triple-option running attack. Muema averages 6.47 yards per carry, and San Diego State will need him to step up against a stout BYU defense.

4. Gavin Escobar, tight end, San Diego State: San Diego State's passing game has not been all that great, but Escobar has been their main target. The All-American tight end will be troublesome for BYU since he is 6-foot-6, so he will be a tall order for either a linebacker or a defensive back. Even though Escobar is a tight end, he is a deep threat with 10 receptions over 20 yards.

A few other key players are BYU quarterbacks James Lark and/or Nelson. Lark is expected to start and he is the better pure passer. However, Nelson is a favorite of BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall, so he could see some action.

The San Diego State defense in general will be interesting to watch since they run the non-traditional 3-3-5.