Cincinnati and San Diego State will meet in the 2015 Hawai'i Bowl. The Bearcats are making their fifth straight bowl appearance after finishing the season with a 7-5 record. The Aztecs arrive in Hawaii for their six straight bowl game at 10-3 and are riding a nine game winning streak. The game will kick off on Christmas Eve (Thursday, December 24) at 8 pm EST.
Cincinnati is known for putting up a high volume of yards (559.2 per game) and points (36.1 per game). The Aztecs defense is one of the best in the nation. They have the best turnover margin in the nation at +19. They also are stingy, allowing only 17.2 points and 287.9 yards per game. Today we will take a look at what to expect when the Cincinnati offense takes the field against the San Diego State defense.
Cincinnati is a team that can attack you on the ground or through the air. However the aerial attack is their primary weapon and that starts with quarterback Gunner Kiel. Kiel finished the year with 2777 yards through the air and 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions while missing part of the year with a neck injury.
On the other end of those Kiel passes is wide receiver Shaq Washington. A 5-9 slot receiver, Washington has caught 88 passes for 971 yards and six touchdowns this season. Washington isn't a threat to go deep; he works underneath and moves the chains.
Even though the passing game is Cincinnati's first option to move the ball it doesn't mean that the Bearcats can't gain yards on the ground. Cincinnati employs a three-man committee of senior Hosey Williams, junior Tion Green, and sophomore Mike Boone. The Bearcats average 186.2 yards on the ground per game with all three backs averaging over four yards a carry.
Cincinnati will need to establish a healthy run game to keep the Aztecs frontline guessing. The Bearcats will need to protect the ball against one of the best teams in the nation at creating turnovers. Allowing more than the two turnovers that they average this season will likely not work against a hungry Aztecs defense.
San Diego State has a big advantage in this game on the defensive side of the ball. The Aztecs play in a 3-3-5 defense, which alone will not help stop the Cincinnati offense, but how well the defense plays in this formation will be key in stopping the Bearcats.
San Diego State's defense is able to create pressure on the quarterback using their linemen and linebackers. They may not consistently bring down the quarterback, but they do create a large number of pressures and hurries. Getting to Kiel will be a priority for a defense that dominates on passing downs.
In turn the fact that the Aztecs play five players in their secondary will allow them to matchup with Washington and the rest of the Bearcat receivers. Damontae Kazee (2nd Team USA Today All ) leads a secondary that only allows 176 yards a game through the air. Having five players in the secondary is a huge advantage for the Aztecs, as it will allow them to find Washington and the rest of the receivers and limit their impact on the game.
San Diego State's success in the 3-3-5 allows them to attack offenses no matter what type of system they run. The dominance of the front line has allowed the Aztecs to create lanes for their linebackers to drop running backs quickly. With just three down linemen the Aztecs are getting a push into the backfield and disrupting plays at a high rate. Cincinnati is going to have a hard time running the ball if they can't create some lanes for their running backs.
This matchup looks like a nightmare for the Bearcats. The Aztecs defense is too good and they're set up for success with their 3-3-5 defense. I expect Aztecs to bend but not break and if they can avoid giving up the big play, which they tend to give up every once in a while, then they should be able to dominate on the defensive side of the ball.