Hawaii Bowl Pick

116
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Hawaii Bowl Pick

Cincinnati

vs.

San Diego State

12/24/15

There isn’t much to complain about for teams playing in the Hawaii bowl, but six of these past seven bowls have been decided by at least 15 points, with one team always leaving in a salty mood. Which team will that be this year? Cincinnati is just 7-5, but opened as a -1.5 point favorite (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) against a 10-3 San Diego State team.

The Bearcats were expected to be one of the best teams in the AAC and fight for the Conference crown. However, that didn’t work out as planned, as they finished just 4-4 in Conference play. They can Scoreplenty, but the defense is not up to the level if they want to be a good team. Four of their losses came on the road and that’s significant, as this Game will be played across the ocean. Cincy competed with most teams and even beat Miami (FL), but with a defense that regularly struggled, it ultimately didn’t matter.

It’s interesting that San Diego State is an underdog in this Game, considering the Aztecs won their final nine Games of the season, including the MWC title Game. No one in the Mountain West even challenged them, outside of the final title Game, which they won 27-24 against Air Force. SDSU struggled early in the season and lost to South Alabama at home, but eventually figured things out. Their record against non-Conference opponents is worrisome, but it’s hard to ignore a nine-Game winning streak. It’s also notable that no other team in the MWC West had a winning record (Nevada finished 6-6).

Cincinnati can win through one method, and that’s passing the ball. Gunnier Kiel is the starter after getting hurt back in September and he’s done mostly well, yet has still thrown an interception in his last Four Games. The Bearcats pass the ball a ton and even though SDSU only allowed 177 yards par Game through the air, Kiel should be close to that 300-yard mark as usual. But for Kiel to find some passing lanes, they’ll need to get their three-headed rushing attack going. Hosey Williams, Mike Boone and Tion Green combined for 2,141 rushing yards and 20 TDs and are a vital part of this offense. Receiver Shaq Washington is Kiel’s favorite target (88 receptions), but Chris Moore leads the team with 7 TDs.

The Aztecs have great defensive numbers, but a lot of that has to do with a weaker Schedule. They allowed 34 points to South Alabama and 37 to Penn State earlier in the year. The edge San Diego State will have in this Game, and the key to beating Cincinnati, is in its running Game.

The Bearcats gave up just over 30 points per Game this year and their weak unit is rush defense. Conveniently for the Aztecs, that’s exactly how they won Games this year. If they can run the ball in this Game, that will keep Kiel off the field.

Running back Donnel Pumphrey has been great this season as expected with 1,554 yards and 16 TDs on the ground to go with 397 receiving yards and 3 more TDs. He’s complemented by Chase Price, who has a nice 940 yards and 6 TDs himself. This combo will likely see at least 40 combined touches and nothing points to Cincinnati being able to stop them.

The Aztecs will be lead by freshman quarterback Christian Chapman (senior Maxwell Smith injured his MCL), which is a bit worrisome considering he’s attempted just 38 passes all year. Chapman wasn’t asked to do much in his first start, but he at least led the team to a win in the MWC title Game. If the Aztecs can run the ball, Chapman may not have to do much yet again.

The Bearcats are a miserable 1-7 ATS in their last eight non-Conference Games, but the Aztecs are even worse at 0-7 ATS in their last seven out of conference. One of these teams has to break that trend in Hawaii.

Our Pick – San Diego State -1.5

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