The quarterback usually has the most impact on the football field, and for San Diego State, they have a very good one in Maxwell Smith. Smith has only thrown two interceptions on the year, along with 13 touchdowns and a 138.7 quarterback rating. Although backup Christian Chapman has played for several games due to injuries, Smith has still put together an impressive season.
Smith is a transfer from the University of Kentucky, where he played 21 games, starting 11, throwing 21 touchdowns and nine interceptions. Smith was brought into San Diego State at the beginning of this year, beating out the quarterback competition. After a shaky start, Smith helped start the nine-game winning streak that the Aztecs are now currently enjoying.
Of course, there is still a chance that Smith won't even play in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. A couple days ago, it was reported that Smith did not practice, as he is still trying to rehab an ACL injury. Though an ACL injury is commonly a season-ender for any player, Smith is intent on playing through the injury, and is doing whatever he can to play in the Hawaii Bowl.
Bearcat fans are going to need to watch the progress of Maxwell Smith throughout the next week; his availability will potentially be a game-changer either way. If Smith can't go, his backup Christian Chapman will likely play, and while Chapman has looked good in Smith's absence, he is still a step down from a player who has only thrown three interceptions in the last two years.
In fact, Smith hasn't thrown an interception since Week 2 of the college football season. His penchant for not turning the ball over could be huge, especially if the Aztecs can effectively run the ball to both keep pressure off of Smith and control the time of possession. The Bearcats offense may find themselves with limited opportunities, with the Aztecs having a strong, ball-hogging running game and a quarterback who isn't prone to giving the opposing offense extra opportunities.
Of course, even if Smith plays, his injury could play a role in decline of play. As well as Smith has played when he's healthy, an ACL injury, or any injuries for that matter, could hinder his abilities.
The Aztecs will either be without their starting quarterback or be playing a hobbled starter. Nevertheless, it won't be an easy game. Bearcats fans should hope that Chapman is the starter come Christmas Eve, rather than Smith. Chapman has been a solid starter, but doesn't have the experience or the talent of Smith.