Hawai’i Bowl Preview: San Diego State vs. Cincinnati

Hawai’i Bowl:

San Diego State vs. Cincinnati
Thursday, December 24, 7:00 PM on ESPN
Hawaiian Airlines Field at Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii

Hawai’i Bowl Preview: San Diego State vs. Cincinnati

San Diego State started their season with three quick losses in their first four games. Cal, South Alabama, and Penn State took a chunk of the Aztecs’ early out of conference schedule. Since then, Rocky Long’s Aztecs have reeled off nine consecutive victories to post a 10-3 regular season record.

Tommy Tuberville’s Cincinnati Bearcats have been up and down all season long during their bumpy 7-5 record. The Bearcats might have played their best game back on September 24th in a 53-46 loss to Memphis. They beat Miami (FL) and played Houston tough in a three point loss.

Rocky Long has a lengthy history as a defensive coordinator, but his Aztecs offense is lighting up the scoreboard in the Mountain West. In nine Mountain West games, SDSU went 9-0 with an average score of 35-13. The only time the Aztecs won by fewer than 14 was in the MWC title game against Air Force.

Tuberville’s Bearcats have struggled with starting quarterback Gunner Kiel dealing with injuries all season long. Hayden Moore replaced Kiel during their game against Memphis. Against Memphis and Miami, he threw for a combined 836 yards with six touchdowns and three picks.

Late December bowl games on luxurious and remote islands is not the ideal atmosphere for coaches to motivate their teams for one last performance. These games usually come down to who wants it more. Which team has more to gain from an otherwise meaningless exhibition? Cincinnati received late word that Gunner Kiel would not make the trip to Hawaii.

“Gunner is taking care of personal problems,” Tuberville said.  “He’s asked if we can kind of recognize his privacy. He’s not off the team. He’ll be back. I don’t know when, but he’ll be back. That’s pretty much all I can say about it.”

The Bearcats are looking to finish off a disappointing 7-5 season. The Aztecs are looking to make a late-season statement. If they finish the season with ten straight victories they will set the table for a significant 2016. San Diego State junior Donnel Pumphrey is the talent to watch in this game. Pumphrey is only 5’9” and 180 pounds, but his speed, vision, and agility are NFL quality. Pumphrey has run for 1,554 yards at a 5.5 yards per carry clip.

Prediction: San Diego State 42, Cincinnati 20

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