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Cincinnati Football: Potential Matchups in the Hawaii Bowl

According to ESPN's Brett McMurphy, the Bearcats are on their way to the Hawaii Bowl to face a Mountain West team, but which one?

Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

After much speculation about where the Bowl-eligible Bearcats will end up later this month, ESPN's Brett McMurphy, announced yesterday that Cincinnati is slated to play in the Hawaii Bowl on Christmas Eve. McMurphy also revealed that the Bearcats will likely play a Bowl-eligible team in the Mountain West.

These teams include Air Force, Boise State, Colorado State, Nevada, New Mexico, San Diego State, and Utah State. Some speculated earlier in the week that the Bearcats could play in the Hawaii Bowl against BYU, but this is unlikely due to the fact that the two teams already played earlier in the season, a 38-24 loss for Cincinnati.

There is already speculation on how these teams might match up against the Bearcats. Here is a preview of what each opponent could potentially bring to the table:

Air Force (8-4)

Air Force placed first in the Mountain division of the conference, and poses to be a very tough opponent for the Bearcats. After a middling 3-3 start where their offense struggled to score points, they won five straight games before losing last weekend to New Mexico. They ended up with a top-rated offense in the country, ranking 27th and scoring 34 points per game. With the improvement that they have shown, they could keep pace with the Bearcats' top ranked offense.

Boise State (8-4)

Boise State finished with a similar 8-4 record, but placed fourth in the Mountain division. They started the season 7-2, posting two shutouts against Hawaii and Idaho State, and although they lost two games late in the year, still possess a high-powered offense, ranking 20th in the country. This is another game with the potential to be a shootout.

Colorado State (7-5)

Also in the Mountain division, Colorado State posted a solid record but placed fifth in the division. Despite a very rocky start to the year, they are on a four-game winning streak. Still, neither side of the ball ranks nearly as high as some of the other teams in the division. Their defense could be their strength, accumulating 24 sacks on the year.

Nevada (6-6)

Nevada posted a middling 6-6 record, but still finished 2nd in the West division, clearly the weaker division in the Mountain West. They have lost their last two games, both road trips to Utah State and San Diego State. They possess a much weaker offense than Cincinnati, averaging about 26 points a game, and their defense hasn't necessarily been stellar, either. This could be a team that the Bearcats match up well against.

New Mexico (7-5)

New Mexico is a team adept at pressuring the quarterback and forcing turnovers, accumulating 29 sacks on the year and 13 interceptions. They can certainly put pressure on this Cincinnati offense, but the bigger question is if their 79th ranked offense can keep pace with a top 10-ranked Bearcat offense.

San Diego State (9-3)

San Diego State boasted the best record in the West division of the Mountain West, and after a frustrating 1-3 start, rebounded to win their final eight games. Even though their numbers aren't necessarily impressive, this is a team on a hot streak, and could make for a very interesting game against the Bearcats.

There is now speculation that the Mountain West team is San Diego State, but it is unconfirmed. Even if the opponent is the Aztecs, the announcement is likely pending the conclusion of the Mountain West Conference Championship Game tonight at 7:30 PM ET on ESPN2. As of yesterday, The San Diego Union-Tribune wrote that the Hawaii Bowl was a possibility, but wasn't a sure thing for the Aztecs.

Utah State (6-6)

Utah State may be 6-6, but have a strong defense that is ranked in the top 40 in the country. Conversely to San Diego State, they have finished their year with a 1-3 record. This is a team that could potentially limit the Bearcats offense, but may not be able to keep up with them on the scoreboard.