Houston (7-4) at Fresno State (9-4)
When: Sunday, December 24th 2017
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI
Time: 8:30 ET | TV: ESPN
Opening Odds: Houston -1.5/46
A couple of solid defensive teams will square-off in this year’s edition of the Hawaii Bowl as the Fresno State Bulldogs battle the Houston Cougars on Christmas Eve in Honolulu. The Bulldogs were tops in the Mountain West Conference in scoring defense at 17.2 points per game while Houston boasts one of the best defensive players in the nation in Outland Trophy winner Ed Oliver. The sophomore defensive tackle, who has made 37.5 tackles-for-loss in 24 career games, received American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year honors after recording 14.5 tackles-for-loss and 5.5 sacks this season. Fresno State won the West Division of the Mountain West and completed the biggest turnaround in the FBS this season, going from 1-11 to 9-4 under first-year coach Jeff Tedford. The Bulldogs were edged out 17-14 to Boise State in the conference title game and will be looking to snap a six-game bowl losing streak, while Houston finished second in the West Division of the AAC and will be playing in their fifth straight bowl game. Fresno State is making its first trip to the postseason since losing to Rice in the 2014 Hawaii Bowl.
Houston played a tough schedule this season and came out pretty well in most of them including road wins over Arizona (19-16) and South Florida (28-24), as well as narrow home losses to Texas Tech (27-24) and Memphis (42-38). The Cougars are on their third starting quarterback of the season with sophomore D’Eriq King, who has completed 73 percent of his passes for 832 yards over the last three games including a win over South Florida. Wide receiver Steven Dunbar made eight catches for 142 yards and a touchdown in a 24-14 win over Navy in the regular-season finale. Senior linebacker D’Juan Hines set a career high with 104 tackles and was named to the All-AAC First Team, while safety Khalil Williams (eight tackles-for-loss) received Second Team honors for a defense that allowed 23.0 points a game.
The Bulldogs lost back-to-back games at Alabama and Washington early in the season by a combined 63 points but responded with four straight wins, capped by a dominant 27-3 victory at San Diego State. They followed the win in San Diego with an ugly home loss to lowly UNLV but closed the regular season with four straight victories, including a 28-17 triumph over Boise State the week before losing to them in the title game. The Bulldogs’ huge turnaround has been sparked by strong defense and the arrival of junior quarterback Marcus McMaryion, a transfer from Oregon State who has thrown 14 touchdown passes against four interceptions. The running game has been slowed down in the last three games with a 3.5 yards per carry average, but Fresno has several dangerous receiving targets including junior KeeSean Johnson, who has eight touchdown catches and needs 82 yards to reach 1,000 for the season. The defense is led by linebackers George Helmuth and Jeffrey Allison, an All-Mountain West First Team selection who has made a team-high 113 tackles.
This Fresno team has been a little too inconsistent for me, while Houston has been tested with a tough schedule and will be prepared for this game. The Bulldog’s turnaround has been nice, but it will end with a loss in the Hawaii Bowl. Check out all of our Bowl Picks this season.
Pick: Houston -2
- Bulldogs are 11-1 ATS vs. a team with a winning record.
- Bulldogs are 10-1 ATS in their last 11 games after scoring less than 20 points in their previous game.
- Bulldogs are 9-1 ATS in their last 10 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.
- Bulldogs are 8-1-1 ATS in their last 10 games following a ATS win.
- Bulldogs are 13-3-1 ATS in their last 17 games on fieldturf.
- Bulldogs are 8-2 ATS in their last 10 games following a straight up loss.
- Bulldogs are 4-1 ATS in their last 5 non-conference games.
- Bulldogs are 19-7-1 ATS in their last 27 games overall.
- Bulldogs are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 bowl games.
- Bulldogs are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 neutral site games.
- Bulldogs are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 Bowl games.
- Cougars are 12-4 ATS in their last 16 non-conference games.
- Cougars are 8-3 ATS in their last 11 neutral site games.
- Cougars are 10-4-1 ATS in their last 15 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.
- Cougars are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games following a ATS win.
- Cougars are 2-5 ATS in their last 7 vs. MWC.
- Cougars are 1-4 ATS in their last 5 games after allowing less than 170 yards passing in their previous game.
- Cougars are 0-4 ATS in their last 4 games after allowing more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game.
- Cougars are 0-6 ATS in their last 6 games on fieldturf.
- Under is 7-0 in Bulldogs last 7 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.
- Under is 5-0-1 in Bulldogs last 6 games in December.
- Under is 7-0 in Bulldogs last 7 games on fieldturf.
- Under is 6-0 in Bulldogs last 6 games following a ATS win.
- Under is 5-0 in Bulldogs last 5 vs. a team with a winning record.
- Under is 13-3 in Bulldogs last 16 games overall.
- Over is 12-5-1 in Bulldogs last 18 non-conference games.
- Under is 5-0 in Cougars last 5 non-conference games.
- Under is 6-1 in Cougars last 7 vs. a team with a winning record.
- Under is 5-1 in Cougars last 6 games following a straight up win.
- Under is 14-3 in Cougars last 17 games overall.
- Under is 4-1 in Cougars last 5 games after allowing less than 20 points in their previous game.
- Under is 4-1 in Cougars last 5 games on fieldturf.
- Under is 4-1 in Cougars last 5 vs. MWC.
- Under is 4-1 in Cougars last 5 games following a ATS win.
- Over is 5-2 in Cougars last 7 games in December.