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Cincinnati Football: Previewing the Cincinnati-San Diego State Hawaii Bowl

The Bearcats will play the 10-3 Aztecs on Christmas Eve at the Hawaii Bowl.

James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

On December 24, the Cincinnati Bearcats will play in the Hawaii Bowl against the San Diego State Aztecs. After much speculation, the decision was announced on Sunday.

The Aztecs placed first in the West division of the Mountain West conference with a 10-3 record. After a 1-3 start, they are on a nine-game winning streak, most recently defeating the Air Force Falcons this past weekend. The Bearcats will certainly have their hands full with a confident and talented squad.

Although the Bearcats have a top-ranked offense, this San Diego team has some playmakers that can certainly force turnovers. Linebacker Calvin Munson has accumulated 9 sacks on the year, with two interceptions, both of which were returned for touchdowns. Defensive back Damontae Kazee leads the Mountain West with seven interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

Although this defense may be able to force turnovers, a big question is whether or not they will be able to keep pace with Cincinnati's explosive offense. Quarterback Maxwell Smith has had a strong year, but suffered a torn ACL near the end of the year against Nevada, and redshirt freshman Christian Chapman has taken over. However, Smith has stated that he still wants to try and come back to play in the Hawaii Bowl, which could certainly make for an interesting storyline. In his absence, Chapman threw for 203 yards and a touchdown in the recent win over Air Force.

Regardless of who is under center, the Bearcats will need to watch out for running back Donnel Pumphrey, who has accumulated over 1,500 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns. With the Aztecs uncertain at quarterback, he could be a focal point of their offense.

The Bearcats and Aztecs should certainly be an exciting matchup. The Aztecs may be shorthanded with injuries, but are on a nine-game winning streak and certainly have playmakers to make this a game to watch. The last matchup between these two teams was all the way back in 2007, where the Bearcats won, 52-23.