Match-up: San Diego State (Mountain West) vs. Cincinnati (AAC)
Spread: Cincinnati (-1.5)
Location: Aloha Stadium- Honolulu, Hawaii
When: Thursday, December 24th, 8:00 PM
Where to Watch: ESPN
San Diego State Overview
It was a shaky start for the Aztecs as they dropped three of their first four games, but rolled through the Mountain West Conference unbeaten and as a result, the Aztecs are winners of their last nine. After a disappointing 7-6 2014-15, San Diego State finished with ten wins and the first 10-win season in the Rocky Long era en route to a conference championship after nail-biting 27-24 victory over Air Force. This is a balanced team, but it’s also a team that loves pounding the rock early and often, and it starts with Donnel Pumphrey.
Players to Watch
Donnel Pumphrey (RB): How could I mention Pumphrey above and not include him as a player to watch in this game? The electric 5-foot-9, 180 pound junior from Las Vegas had a terrific season for the Aztecs, rushing for more than 1,500 yards with 16 touchdowns, both of which were second among running backs in the conference. Look for Pumprey’s speed to be on full display in the Hawaii Bowl early and often.
Damontoe Kazee (CB): The junior from San Bernardino, California, was the heart and soul for the Aztecs defense all season long, and his numbers and postseason awards certainly backed that up. With 69 tackles, 5.5 tackles for loss, 7 interceptions, 7 pass breakups, and 2 forced fumbles, Kazee earned the Defensive Player of the Year honor for the Mountain West Conference, and was recently named to USA Today’s Second-team All-American team. So yeah, Kazee is pretty darn good, and someone Cincinnati should account for at all times.
How San Diego State Can Win
Pound. The. Rock. It’s what they do best (235.3 ypg, 15th nationally) and it’s certainly contributed in a big way in each of their ten wins this season. With Cincinnati being one of the best passing offenses in the nation, running the football with Pumphrey and controlling clock will be crucial for the Aztecs to win this one.
In speaking for Bearcats fans, it was a disappointing year in terms of wins and losses. The Bearcats had posted four straight seasons of 9 or more wins, but 2015 was not the year for Cincinnati. Despite having a top 5 passing offense in college football (373.1 ypg), the defense allowed over 400 total yards per game, ranking 84th in the country. A combination of playing in a very competitive American Athletic Conference along with inconsistency on both sides of the ball is what led to just a 7-win season for this team.
Players to Watch
Gunner Kiel (QB): The transfer from Notre Dame is a gifted passer and has the ability to make every throw in the book. However, his decision making often times is questionable (as evident by his 11 interceptions), and it’s led to putting his defense in poor field position. Taking care of the ball will be vital for Kiel going against a stingy Aztecs defense who ranks 5th in the nation in total defense that allows just 288 yards per game.
Shaq Washington (WR): The senior from Maple Heights, Ohio has been the go-to receiver for Gunner Kiel all season. His 88 receptions are 49 more than the second leading receiver on the team, and he’s coming off a monster 15 catch, 124 yard performance at East Carolina in the season finale. A much anticipated matchup with All-American cornerback Damontoe Kazee will be fun to watch.
How Cincinnati Can Win:
Using their up-tempo attack offensively by scoring at an uncanny pace. The Aztecs are awesome defensively, but this will be the best offense they’ve played this year. If Gunner Kiel can push the ball down the field with a turnover-free game, the Bearcats have a great chance to win this game.
Final Score Prediction: SDSU wins 31-28.
Christian Reilly- @CReillyTV
Photo Credit – http://www.footballsfuture.com/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=530653&view=next