Fresno State vs. SMU
Monday Dec. 24, 8pm (ET), ESPN
Aloha Stadium (Honolulu, HI)
Line: Fresno State -12 1/2
What a difference a year makes for the Bulldogs as they were just 4-9 a season ago in the WAC and now they enter the game 9-3. Heck, they nearly won the Mountain West championship by going 7-1 in their first season in their new home. However, they're going up against a team that is Hawaii bowl veterans in SMU. The Mustangs will be playing in their 3rd Hawaii Bowl and a school record 4th straight overall. So, who wins this matchup - the Hawaiian rookies or the vets?
Sexiness: Grace Parker
Hey, this game is all about celebrating Hawaii, right? Well, Ms. Parker stars on the show that gives us a weekly look at Hawaii - you know, Hawaii 5-0! That and she is sneaky hot, just like the fact that this game could be sneaky good. Besides, who doesn't love a chick that is sexy and can kick some ass to boot? Oh, wait, are you saying she only plays that part on TV.... Damn!
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Aces: Ever heard of the last name Carr at Fresno State? Well, if not shame on you for forgetting one of the best college quarterbacks in the past decade or so - David Carr. But we're all about the here and now and right now it's his younger brother Derek Carr that's at the helm of the Bulldogs and making his own name. He has 3,742 yards with 35 touchdowns to just 5 interceptions on the season. Safe to say he's kind of a big deal to this team, huh?
Deuces: While the passing game has been spectacular on both sides of the football, you can't say the same for the rushing defense for Fresno State. They are giving up an average of 171.9 yards a game to their opponents, ranking them just 73rd nationally in that category. It's never good when your defense is giving up more yards rushing than your offense gains in a game, even if you are a bit more of a pass happy attack.
Wildcard: One big time name to watch is Bulldogs WR Devante Adams. He's a name you may not have heard of but you should've. No really, his 89 receptions for 1,168 yards and 13 receiving TD's say you should know him. It doesn't hurt that he's going up against a secondary that absolutely sucks either (more on that later though).
Aces: When you picture SMU football you think about rushing the football right? However this is a June Jones coached team and that means a crazy passing attack... Well, sorta in this case, but it's all about redemption for Garrett Gilbert. Yes, that Gilbert, you know the one who came in in the 1st quarter of the 2010 BCS title game. Well, Gilbert is the starter for the Mustangs and he hasn't been back to a bowl game since that fateful loss to Alabama. He's had a so-so season in Dallas, throwing for 2,720 yards, but has also been wildly inconsistent with 14TD's to 13INT's on the season. He'll need to be the consistent version of himself against one of the best pass defenses in the country.
Deuces: This is where things could get really ugly on Christmas Eve for the Mustangs and that's because they have the 103rd ranked pass defense in the country and allow opponents to average 271 yards a game through the air. Against a Fresno State team that loves to throw the football A LOT, that's an issue to say the least.
Wildcard: As much as I ripped on the Mustangs about their pass defense their one hope lies in the fact that they did rip off 19 interceptions on the season as a team, not a bad number at all. But, the real X-Factor for the Mustangs is senior tailback Zach Line. He can go off if the line can give him some holes to run through, evidenced by 1,207 yards rushing and 13TD's on the year. If they want to win the game ball control offense could be their best friend.
So you don’t forget...: Fresno State hasn't won a bowl game since a 2007 Humanitarian Bowl win over Georgia Tech, which is a four game losing streak for the Bulldogs and according to reports it had a lot to do with not taking practice in December that serious under Patt Hill. Tim DeRuyter has changed that attitude, but let's see it before we believe it.
Crystal Ball: SMU had to sneak into this bowl game by beating C-USA champions Tulsa on the final weekend of the season and that shows they are capable of hanging with some pretty good football teams. However, playing against Fresno State may be punching a bit too much above their weight. I really don't like the matchup of Fresno State's passing game against the 'Stangs passing defense and for that this could well be an easy win for the Bulldogs.
Score: Fresno State: 41, SMU 20