The Armed Forces Bowl on Dec. 23 will feature Army and San Diego State ... and the best player in college football few have heard about.
The Heisman Trophy should go to Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, while others prominently in the running include Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, Louisville’s Lamar Jackson and Stanford’s Bryce Love.
But no Rashaad Penny, whose oversight is tantamount to any snub the Oscar’s might have to offer.
The San Diego State running back leads the nation in rushing with 2,027 yards and has scored 24 total touchdowns.
Penny’s only sin is he doesn’t play in a Power 5 conference.
If the Doak Walker Award finalists announced last month are an accurate forecast — Penny was left off — he will almost certainly be a Heisman snub.
“We would love to have that kind of recognition, but it’s not a big deal to him,” said San Diego State coach Rocky Long, in his seventh season at the Mountain West school. “We thought the Doak Walker was a snub, but the guys most offended were his teammates.”
The Armed Forces Bowl is set for a 2:30 p.m. kickoff at Amon G. Carter Stadium.
Even more certain than a probable Heisman snub is the beating the turf at TCU will take.
Army (8-3) features the nation’s top rushing attack with 368.1 yards per game (6.2 yards per carry) and 43 touchdowns on the ground out of its triple-option scheme.
Quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw has rushed for 1,472 yards for the Black Knights, who are 11-3 over their past 14 games dating to last season.
The Black Knights will be making back-to-back bowl appearances for the first time since 1984-85. Army defeated North Texas last season in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Coach Jeff Monken is in his fourth season at Army, a three-time national champion from 1944-46 with Heisman Trophy winners Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis.
The Black Knights have one regular-season game remaining, the 118th edition of its rivalry with Navy on Saturday.
That means Army will have only five practices to prepare for the Aztecs (10-2, 6-2) and their fast, physical running back who runs out of pro-style offense.
“He should be a Heisman finalist,” Monken said. “He’s proven he’s one of the best players in the nation, if not the best player. We saw a little of him preparing for Air Force.
“There are a lot of people breathing a sigh of relief because they didn’t draw San Diego State in a bowl game. They can beat anybody in the country.”
The Aztecs boast signature victories over Arizona State, No. 13 Stanford, and Air Force in consecutive weeks.
Long’s teams have won 10 or more games the past three seasons. The Aztecs have played in the postseason eight straight years.
The Armed Forces Bowl, sponsored by Fort Worth’s Lockheed Martin, is played in honor of the armed forces of the United States. It is the only bowl game that has hosted three U.S. service academy teams.
Air Force has appeared in the game five times (2007, 2008, 2009, 2012 and 2015), while Navy has played in it twice (2013, 2016).
Army, which made its debut in 2010, will be making its second appearance. (The game in 2010 was at SMU during TCU’s stadium renovation.)
“We’ll see if there’s any hope for him to be invited to New York,” Long said. “But he’s driven guy anyway. He wants to be good. I don’t think it bothers him a bit if he’s not invited.
“The most amazing thing about him is how humble he is and what a team-first guy he is.”
That sounds like a guy Fort Worth will love.
Armed Forces Bowl
Army vs. San Diego St.
2:30 p.m. Dec. 23, ESPN