San Diego State Aztecs vs Cincinnati Bearcats (-1, o/u 57)
For the team’s that don’t get a chance to play on New Year’s Day, or in the College Football Playoff, there is little reward better than a trip to paradise. This year, the San Diego State Aztecs (10-3, 8-0 Mountain West) and Cincinnati Bearcats (7-5, 4-4 AAC) won the geographic lottery and will head to Honolulu for the Hawaii Bowl (Dec. 24 at 8:00 PM Eastern).
If you’re a believer in momentum, you’ll want to roll with San Diego State in this one; the Aztecs have won nine straight, piecing things together after opening the year 1-3 with non-conference losses against Cal (35-7), South Alabama (34-27), and Penn State (37-21). They won eight straight games by at least two touchdowns and then held off Air Force, 27-24, in the Mountain West championship game.
San Diego State mostly won on the strength of a defense that yielded only 17.2 points a game (tenth best in the NCAA) and a tough rushing attack that gained more than 235 yards a contest (15th in the country). Running back Donnel Pumphrey averaged 5.5 yards per carry on 284 attempts this year totaling 1,554 yards with 16 scores. He surpassed 120 yards on the ground in each conference game.
The situation was reversed for the Bearcats; they went 3-1 in non-conference play, but struggled through their AAC schedule. The Bearcats finished last season as top-dogs in the young conference, but were surpassed by Temple, Houston, and Navy this year (all of whom finished with at least ten wins).
Cincinnati’s four conference losses came against Temple (34-26), Houston (33-30), South Florida (62-57), and Memphis (53-46). They beat two .500 league squads, Tulsa and UConn. Their best win of the year was arguably a non-conference triumph over Miami (34-23).
Thanks to a high-flying attack, Cincinnati scored over 36 points a game this year, but struggled on defense, surrendering 30.3. Their offense was based on the passing game, a unit that topped 373 yards a contest, fourth best in the NCAA. Quarterback Gunner Kiel completes better than 65-percent of his throws, tallying almost nine yards per attempt. Wide Receiver Shaq Washington caught 88 passes for just under 1,000 yards.
San Diego State should be able to control the tempo of the game on offense, and that is the best way to slow down the Cincinnati passing game. I like the Bearcats (-1) a little, and the under 57 a lot.
Picks: Cincinnati (-1), under 57.
(Photo credit: Bearcat2011 [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)
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