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SMQ Bowl Blitz: The Poinsettia

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The least you should know about the Poinsettia Bowl...
The Poinsettia Bowl is brought to you for the third consecutive year by the San Diego County Credit Union, which reminds readers that that whole "mortgage loan crisis" is just a typical scare tactic of the liberal media elite, which will never tell you, valued consumer, how to get a leg up with an ARM. Trust us: you can afford it.
Location Inquisitor
This is the one in:

a) San Jose
b) San Diego
c) Memphis
d) El Paso
e) All of the above

If you said b) San Diego, you’re right! And you can read and/or possess an underveloped sense of irony! These will get harder.

The Venue
Jack Murphy Qualcomm Stadium – "More Than Just A Football Stadium, Though Primarily Just A Football stadium" – is located in the heart of beautiful San Diego, a military-friendly town on the Mexican border so breathtakingly gorgeous your eyes will dry up and recede into their sockets at sunset. The stadium is home to the San Diego Chargers and San Diego State Aztecs as well as baseball’s San Diego Padres, making for decidedly suboptimal logo conditions; we are likely to see the double crime of badly faded end zone paint and visible infield outline in one swoop. This is acceptable as long as the ground crew uses tonight’s game as a test run for next week’s Holiday Bowl, and learns its lessons for the betterment of the bigger game.
Formerly Known As...
NA. The San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl boasts a remarkable tradition of stability, having existed for three seasons as the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl in a successful run of not folding under oppressive disinterest. Two more years, and it’ll graduate to the role of relatively wizened teenager on the block.
Past Winners Include...
Navy and TCU. That’s it. The Horned Frogs’ utter dismantling of Northern Illinois’ one-dimensional offense last December set the stage for heavy preseason breathing over the Frogs, who lost Poinsettia MVP Tommy Blake for most of the season to a weird combination of undisclosed medical condition and debilitating stress and finished 7-5. But man, they were terrors in the Poinsettia. The first two games were won by 21 and 30 points, respectively. Also, this guy drunk-dialled "about three or four different Poinsettia Bowl officials" during last year’s game:

The first edition of an ongoing public service to enlighten readers of their bowl viewing options...

Tune in for: The Poinsettia Bowl is a deceptive one, ostensibly promising a base, mid-week, mid-major level sideshow, but secretly hiding inside its Trojan Horse of gratuitous mediocrity a compelling matchup of two of the country's most not terrible sub-BCS teams. Navy is entertaining, if nothing else: the academy easily set a new standard for rushing offense this decade by slicing its way to 351 per game on the ground (and averaging 5.7 per carry in the process, better than every other offense except Arkansas, West Virginia and Illinois, even though every defense knew exactly what was coming) and contrary to its old school trappings had a promising tendency for outrageously high-scoring shootouts - Navy punted fewer times than any other team in the country and combined with opponents for more than 80 points in five different games, including multi-overtime thrillers with Pitt and Notre Dame and a nine-touchdown effort by the Midshipmen alone in their 74-62 win over North Texas, the highest scoring game in I-A history. The only question is whether newly promoted World War II vet Nancy Kulp assistant head coach Ken Niumatalolo and his new offensive coordinator, Ivin Jasper, taking over play-calling from Paul Johnson for the first time, will have the same knack for keeping defenses off-balance.

She could set up Buddy Ebsen one-liner, she can set up the option pass.
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This will be key, because Utah doesn't give up those kinds of points - four of the Utes' last six opponents were held to 10 or less, and none topped 20, including Mountain West scoring leader BYU; for the season, Utah was third nationally in scoring defense. It also, following a 1-3 start with losses to Air Force and UNLV without him, won seven straight after quarterback Brian Johnson returned to the lineup full-time at the end of September and outgained Wyoming by 383 yards in a 50-0 bludgeoning on Nov. 10.

Turn away in disgust and re-assess your priorities in life when: If you're a defensive aficionado, Navy is, well, offensive, in keeping with the general shift in miliary priorities under the current administration. The Midshipmen were dead last nationally in pass efficiency defense, in the bottom ten in sacks, tackles for loss and third down stop percentage and allowed more yards per pass (8.33) than any defense except Toledo's. Notre Dame threw a pair of touchdowns on Navy (though, to be fair, one was in overtime).

For Utah's part, get ready for the sob story: 1,100-yard rusher Darrell Mack has had boiling hot vats of tragedy poured all over him repeatedly in his short life -

• His mother was a drug addict who was murdered with a lug wrench in 1995. Mack was 8.
 • His father killed a woman by stabbing her 43 times in 2002 and is in prison for life. Mack was 15.
 • Because of his family situation, he missed out on much of the first and second grades.
 • He has dyslexia.
 • Last week, the grandfather who helped raise him died of cancer.

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- and if Mack has a big game (uh, see above for the odds of that), we will not hear the end of it. Just a fair warning. The only possible positive in this scenario - for the aggrieved Mack, for the mostly indifferent viewer - is that there's nobody left for ESPN sideline babe du jour to waste our time interviewing.

What Else is On
You have no life. But that doesn't mean you can't enjoy these actual non-gridiron alternatives:

FOX 9 p.m. Don't Forget the Lyrics! (60 mins.)
A game show that test contestants' knowledge of popular song lyrics. The must sing missing lines after the band stops playing and the words disappear. (TV-PG)

Don't tell his achy breaky heart it's up against the Poinsettia Bowl.
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BIO 9 p.m. Biography: Billy Ray Cyrus (60 mins.)
A profile of singer-actor Billy Ray Cyrus includes his Kentucky upbringing; his rise to fame with "Achy Breaky Heart"; his family life; and interviews with Cyurs, Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn and his daughter Miley. (TV-PG)

MTV 10 p.m. Run's House - "Too Cool For Old School" (30 mins.)
JoJo begins an internship at Phat Farm, where one of the designers makes his life miserable. Meanwhile, Rev buys an old school arcade game to prove to Diggy and Russy that he used to be an arcade wiz. (TV-PG)

BRAVO 10 p.m. Real Housewives of Orange County (60 mins.)
Fiftysomething divorceé Quinn Fry joins the cast, as the O.C. housewives welcome her into their camp. Meanwhile, Lauri prepares for her pending nuptials, but daughter Ashley's appeal to be maid of honor at the event complicates matters. Vicki's son contemplates following his mother's footsteps into the insurance business; and Jeana travels to Vancouver to watch son Shane play baseball. (TV-14)
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SMQ Watchability Rating: All bowl games are rated on a scale of one TV ("Christmas shopping done? Yes? Think of more people. Phone book suggested if necessary.") to five ("Block out a few hours - and possibly the sun, if there's a glare - for this can't-miss classic.") based on completely subjective factors, up to and including potential cheerleader hotness/fulfillment of requisite nubile teen lust fantasies, which are so sadly lacking anywhere else on contemporary television or the Internet.

For the inevitable offensive explosion alone, the Poinsettia gets an unprecedented rating of two sets, and when the flexbone is part of the equation, bar the door for an all-time high:

Worth an afternoon or evening, if there's nothing better to do, until it gets out of hand.
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Three sets for the Poinsettia in Year Three. This is your chance to do something decent, rook: don't blow it to some emo-drenched Grey's Anatomy rerun where all of the doctors are too angsty to complete the minimum requirements of their job without a tear-jerking solliloquey. You can beat that.

(Not, as KSK would say, that I would know.)

The Pick: Utah has won six straight bowl games and was quietly one of the hottest teams in the country after it got Johnson back; Navy hasn't beaten a team that finished with a winning record since the 2004 Emerald Bowl over New Mexico (7-5), one of only two teams - the other was East Carolina to open last season - above .500 at year's end the Midshipmen defeated in Paul Johnson's entire six-year tenure, a record he stretched for much acclaim and big bucks at Georgia Tech. Niumatalolo can go halfway to matching that in his first game, but Utah has better personnel and a clock-killing ethos and anyway, Navy allowed 64 points to North Texas and 59 to Delaware. Whatever tricks are up the Midshipmen's collective, perfectly-pressed sleeves, the Utes can keep up.
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Utah 45 Navy 32