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Hawaii Bowl: San Diego State Football Keys to Victory

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These are the keys to victory for the San Diego State Aztecs as they take on the Cincinnati Bearcats in the 2015 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

San Diego State takes on Cincinnati in their 2nd meeting all-time. The Aztecs breezed through conference play except against Air Force in the Mountain West Championship Game. But San Diego State promises to return to dominating form on familiar turf. The Cincinnati Bearcats toughed out through the American conference schedule going 4-4, losing their final game of AAC play against South Florida. They hope that the Hawaiian islands can turn around their bad bowl luck.

Keys to Victory

Chase Price and Donnel Pumphrey

If these two can’t go against a soft run defense like Cincinnati, then it’s over for the Aztecs. The Aztecs running backs average 235 yards a game while Cincinnati averages giving up 190 yards a game. Price and Pumphrey are some of the talented backs in the country. While Pumphrey continues to close in on some of Marshall Faulk’s school records, Price is quietly inching towards a 1,000 yard season. If Price rushes for at least 60 yards on Christmas Eve, the Aztecs will have their first duo of 1,000 yard rushers in the same season in school history. Rocky Long has emphasized the run game and it shows in their record-- the Aztecs have gone 14-1 in the last 15 games when they have more rushing yards than their opponent.

Which Quarterback suits up?

There is a chance Maxwell Smith, who’s been out in the month of December, risks his health for one more chance in an Aztecs uniform. Smith has opted out of surgery for his torn ACL to give himself a shot at a come back. The fifth year senior has a very slim chance at a sixth year waiver, so he wants to play in the only bowl game in his career. But the real questions is if he does suit up, how much slack does Rocky Long offer Smith.

Statisically, between him and Christian Chapman, Chapman might have the better accuracy and mobility. The easier choice would start the freshman Christian Chapman. Chapman filled in nicely against a tough Air Force defense, proving that he could step in when the game is on the line. Then if Chapman does get his number called, will the fearless leader of the Mountain West Championship game arrive?

Defense Wins Championships

The Aztecs have not played well in non-conference play in 2015 having gone 1-3, (0-3 against FBS opponents). In each FBS loss the defense gave up over 400 yards of total offense and 30+ points. San Diego State’s defense will go up against a high-powered passing attack, despite the loss of Gunner Kiel at quarterback. It’s going to be up to Rocky Long to find avenues for the defense to apply pressure on the new quarterback, and trusting their guys in the secondary will make plays when their number gets called.

For the defense It also means figuring out who Hayden Moore truly is. Despite being the backup to Kiel, he has played in seven games and amassed 1683 yards with 9 touchdowns. He seems confident in the pocket, but he has 8 interceptions in 2015. The Aztecs are a defensive turnover machine with 20 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries. Seven of those interceptions have been caught by Damontae Kazee.

Prediction

San Diego State will struggle against the pass in the first quarter. Hayden Moore will throw a pair of touchdowns in the first half before making a mistake that will take the wind out of the sails for the Bearcats. Once the defensive line starts to get pressure on the quarterback, it'll be harder for Moore to keep up.

The Bearcats will do their best to replicate the success of Penn State and keep Price and Pumphrey under control, but those two guys are too talented together. Christian Chapman will start the game, and his throws and mobility will keep the Bearcats honest. Yet, there's no way the Bearcats defense bottles up the power run game of San Diego State. This game is done by the end of the 3rd quarter.

San Diego State 31, Cincinnati 23