With the stands at Qualcomm filled with Midshipmen, tonight's Poinsettia Bowl will seem like a home game for Navy.  Back the Middies plus the points against the Utah Utes.

Navy has lost their exceptional head coach, Paul Johnson, to Georgia Tech. Long-time assistant and offensive coordinator Ken Niumatalolo takes over. There shouldn’t be much of a dropoff but there is the concern that Johnson’s in-game adjustments will be missed.

[articleBanner]who2beton[/articleBanner]Navy leads the nation in rushing at 351.5 yards per game. Utah has been strong against the run later in the season and have surrendered just 84.3 yards rushing per game in their last seven games. However, they only ranked 50th in the nation on No team scored more than 20 points against the Utes in their final six games. Utah did play a good non-conference schedule visiting Oregon State and Louisville while hosting UCLA.

The Midshipmen sold 20,000 tickets for this game, Utah only 4,000. With the game being played in San Diego, the entire week will be a huge Naval celebration. The Middies should be motivated to give it their all.

The Navy defense has been one of the worst in the nation this year finishing 109th in scoring defense, 36.5 points per game, and 99th in total defense giving up 438.2 yards a game. For Navy backers, the good news is the Ute offense isn’t all that explosive. Quarterback Brian Johnson was hurt in the opening game of the season and never performed up to his previous performance in past seasons. He re-injured his shoulder in the next-to-last game of the season and has been taking some cortisone shots since the regular season ended.

Both teams have done well the past few years in bowl games. Armed forces teams are 19-6 ATS in bowl games while Utah has won bowl games four years in a row by 12 points or more.

I don’t like the way Utah’s season finished with BYU clinching the Mountain West Conference title in the final game of the year with a 17-10 win. Utah had scored with 1:34 left to go on a 69-yard drive to take a 10-9 lead. BYU then converted on a fourth and 18 from their own 12 yard line in the final minute of the game. Shortly thereafter, the Cougars scored the go-ahead touchdown with 34 seconds to go in the game. Utah was devastated.

The fundamentals favor Utah, but the situation favors Navy. Take Navy and the points!

Free Pick: Navy +7½ (-105)