Hawaii Bowl Preview: Will Cincinnati be a match for San Diego State’s defense?
Cincinnati (7–5) vs. San Diego State (10-3)
Dec. 24, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Reason to watch
Cincinnati may not have had the strong season it were expected to as it was outshined by schools like Temple and Navy, but if the Bearcats bring their offensive game to combat San Diego State’s defense it will likely be an exciting matchup. Cincinnati is looking to get the program’s first bowl win since defeating Duke in the 2012 Belk Bowl. Riding on a nine-game win streak, the Aztecs will be looking to cap off their season as the stars of the Mountain West Conference with a bowl win.
Keep an eye on: San Diego State running back Donnel Pumphrey
The junior has rushed for 1,554 yards and 16 touchdowns this season. Pumphrey pumped out 100 yards or more in the majority of games this season and he'll likely be a key part of the Aztecs’ offense against the Bearcats. From Cincinnati, be sure to check out wide receiver Shaq Washington. The senior has 88 receptions for 971 yards, both team-leading statistics, and six touchdowns on the season, good for second among Bearcats’ wideouts. He also holds the school record for receptions, having racked up 238 receptions from 2011-2015.
Did you know...?
Neither the Bearcats nor the Aztecs will be playing with their starting quarterbacks for this matchup. Cincinnati QB Gunner Kiel will be out due to “personal reasons,” according to coach Tommy Tuberville. Redshirt freshman Hayden Moore, who made eight appearances this season, including two starts, will fill in for Kiel. For SDSU, senior Maxwell Smith sustained a season-ending knee injury during the team’s final regular season game against Nevada. Christian Chapman, who is expected to start in the bowl game while Smith seeks another year off collegiate play, pending approval by the NCAA. The Aztecs’ offense won't be shaken up a great deal by Smith’s absence due to the fact that the team rushes the ball on well over half of its snaps.
Cincinnati has traveled a long way to get to Honolulu, 4,435 miles to be exact, but don't expect the trip to be all fun in the sun. The Bearcats have been mistake-prone all season: they own the fourth-worst turnover margin in the country, and they have a difficult task in the Aztecs, who are No. 1 in the same stat. Cincinnati’s defense has allowed 200 yards or more six times in 2015 and if San Diego State sticks to its typical clock-controlling style, relying on defense and forcing turnovers, it should come away with a victory.