The Hawaii Bowl, Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET, features the Cincinnati Bearcats (7-5) and the Mountain West Conference champs San Diego State Aztecs (10-3). Neither team will be playing with their starting QB as Cincy’s Gunner Kiel is out for personal reasons and the Aztecs’ Maxwell Smith suffered a season ending knee injury during the team’s final regular season game. Tummy Tuberville is giving redshirt freshman Hayden Moore the start and the Aztecs will turn to Christian Chapman. Both teams have a contrast in style–expect an aggressive aerial attack from Cincy and a punishing ground game from San Diego State.
The Aztecs are riding a nine game winning streak backed behind a strong ground game coupled with a stout defense. The run heavy offense is lead by RB Donnel Pumphry who has scampered for over 1,554 years with 16 TDs. Pumphry is supported by two powerful backs in Chase Price (940 yards) and Rashaad Penny (351 yards). The Aztecs 3-3-5 defense will cause problems for Moore as the defense is only allowing 4.68 yards per play and giving up a stingy 17.2 points per game.
The Bearcats will have to rely heavily on the hands of WR Shaq Washington. Washington is Moore’s go-to receiver hauling in 88 receptions for 971 yards and six TDs for the season.
Who will win?
With gunslinger Kiel out and an offense that has the fourth worst turnover margin in the country (-16 margin in 12 games), expect the Aztecs to capitalize on Cincy’s misfortunes. With its strong ground game, the Aztecs will methodically run the ball against a defense that surrenders over 5.8 yards per play and yields 30.3 points per game. If the defense keeps Washington in check, expect San Diego State to win. After all, this can be a signature win for the San Diego State football program which makes it more meaningful.
San Diego State wins 35-27.