Cincinnati (7-5) vs San Diego State (10-3)
When: Thursday, December 24th 2015
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI
Time: 8:00 ET | TV: ESPN
The San Diego State Aztecs ride a nine-game winning streak into this year’s Hawaii Bowl as they face off against the Cincinnati Bearcats. The Aztecs finished a perfect 8-0 in the Mountain West Conference and held off Air Force 27-24 in the Title game. San Diego State has the third-longest active winning streak in the nation behind Clemson (16) and Alabama (10). Starting quarterback Maxwell Smith tore his ACL in the regular season finale against Nevada and will not play today. Redshirt freshman Christian Chapman, who completed 9-of-14 passes for 203 yards and a touchdown in the championship game, will make his second college start. The Aztecs will probably lean heavily on Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Year Donnel Pumphrey. The junior running back rushed for 1,554 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Pumphrey ran for at least 120 yards in eight of his last nine games and averages 5.5 yards a carry this year. He helped San Diego State finish as the 14th best rushing unit in the nation. The Aztecs are solid defensively ranking 5th nationally in total defense, 7th against the rush, and 10th in points allowed (17.2). The 24 points the surrendered to Air Force was the only time they allowed more than 20 in their current nine-game winning streak.
The Cincinnati season has not gone as expected and now quarterback Gunner Kiel will not travel with the team to Hawaii due to personal reasons. Kiel completed 65.2% of his passes this season for 2,777 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions, far off from his 31 touchdown performance in 2014. Freshman Hayden Moore will get the start and he’s seen plenty of action his year. Moore completed 58% of his passes and threw nine touchdowns, but also eight interceptions. His best game was in week 4 in a loss to Memphis in which he threw for 557 yards and four touchdowns. The Bearcats has three capable running backs in Hosey Williams, Mike Boone, and Tion Green. Each of them rushed for 697 yards or more this season with Boone and Green scoring eight touchdowns each. Senior wide receiver Shaq Washington set a school single-season receptions mark with 88 catches for 971 yards and six touchdowns. The Bearcats have one of the worst defenses in the country and they’re going to have their hands full trying to stop Pumphrey. Cincinnati ranked 84th in total defense and 92nd against the run allowing 190.8 rushing yards a game. Linebacker Eric Wilson leads the Bearcats defense with 103 tackles.
I think this San Diego State team is much better all-around and should run all over Cincinnati. The Bearcats will struggled to score points on this defense and I’m predicting a route.
Pick: San Diego State -3