Houston vs. Fresno State: Hawaii Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Houston vs. Fresno State: Hawaii Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

American Athletic

Houston vs. Fresno State: Hawaii Bowl Prediction, Game Preview


Three reasons why you should watch the Hawaii Bowl, why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.


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Hawaii Bowl
Fresno State (9-4) vs. Hawaii (7-4)

Broadcast

Date: Sunday, December 24
Game Time: 8:30 pm
Venue: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI
Network: ESPN

Contact/Follow @PeteFiutak

The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness
(1 best-39 worst): 
21 out of 39

2017-2018 Bowl Central: Schedules, Picks, Love
CFN Expert Consensus Confidence Picks

Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Hawaii Bowl

If it’s possible to enjoy watching a team that plays defensive, low-scoring games, Fresno State is it. Shouldn’t a Jeff Tedford-coached team be a high-flying fun show? Not yet. This is a tough-as-nails team that’s amazing defensively. The Bulldogs play a more completing brand of football than you might think.

– No pressure, Fresno State, but win this game. Granted, Tedford is playing with house money after doing one of the best turnaround jobs in college football – the Bulldogs went 1-11 last season – but the program needs a bowl win. Fresno State beat Georgia Tech 40-28 in the 2007 Humanitarian Bowl – it’s 0-6 in bowls since then.

No pressure, Major Applewhite, but win this game. It wasn’t a bad first year at the helm after taking over for Tom Herman, but there wasn’t a whole lot of pizzazz and there wasn’t enough fun in an okay-not-great 7-4 campaign. Considering the way the team clunked in The Major’s first game against San Diego State in last year’s Las Vegas Bowl, closing out strong is a must.

Here’s Why Fresno State Will Win The Hawaii Bowl

There might not be a whole slew of all-stars, but the Bulldog defensive front is outstanding at getting everyone behind the line. With Tobenna Okeke and Malik Forrester up front, and Robert Stanley leading the linebacking corps, the D is a disruptive force that does almost everything right.

The O line play has been magnificent. The ground game is fine, but the pass protection is at a whole other level, allowing just nine sacks on the year and a mere 40 tackles for loss. C Aaron Mitchell leads a line with the talent to keep DT Ed Oliver and the Houston defensive front under wraps. It all works together – keep everyone protected, limit the mistakes, own the clock.

Yeah, the Fresno State defense might be great, but the rise of QB Marcus McMaryion has made a massive difference, too. The Oregon State transfer keeps the mistakes to a bare minimum – with just four picks on the year with two of them against Hawaii – doing a great job of working within the system. This is hardly a big bombing attack, but if McMaryion is hitting over 60% of his passes and making the third down throws, he’ll be doing his job.

Here’s Why Houston Will Win The Hawaii Bowl

Ladies and gentlemen, you 2017 Hawaii Bowl would like to introduce you to Houston DT Ed Oliver. There but for a stupid, stupid rule that a player has to be three years out of high school to be eligible for the NFL Draft, he might have been on the same defensive line as Myles Garrett next year at this time.

A special all-around interior defensive talent, the 6-3, 290-pounder has the size, the quickness, and the pass rushing ability, with 69 tackles with 5.5 sack and 14.5 tackles for loss. When he takes over a game, he’s unblockable.

It took a while for Houston to crank up any sort of a downfield passing game, and it still isn’t anything dynamic, but the accuracy is there. The three quarterbacks – D’Eriq King, Kyle Allen and Kyle Postma – combined to hit 70% of their passes. King has taken over the job, and he’s been able to crank things up, averaging an Baker Mayfield-like 10.3 yards per throw. Since taking over, the Cougars are 3-1.

– Fresno State’s offense doesn’t like to score. For all of the good things the Bulldogs have been doing, they don’t put up points in bunches. Outside of the 66 hung on the board in the opener against Incarnate Word, and the 41 scored against Nevada and the 38 put up on New Mexico, it’s been a struggle. On the year, Fresno State has only scored more than 28 points those three times. Houston should be able to stay in the game no matter what.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The Hawaii Bowl

Does Fresno State’s game at Hawaii matter? It’s a long flight, and there’s a whole lot that goes into playing in Honolulu beyond just the football game. The Bulldogs did it a few weeks ago, making the flight on November 11th in a 31-21 win, and then making the trip to Wyoming the next week and coming up with another victory. The wow factor of playing in Hawaii shouldn’t be there.

At the very least, the game will have the football world all to itself. It might be played on Christmas Eve, but there’s no Sunday night NFL game – the pros are taking over Christmas Day after dominating the 24th during the afternoon. So while it might be a tough sell for some to peel away from family to watch this at an 8:30 ET start time, it should be at least on in the background at most gatherings. And if not, it’ll probably be more interesting than most of the family members, anyway.

– In the My Conference Is Better world that some like to dive into around bowl time, this is bigger for the Mountain West. The American Athletic still has UCF as the big moment against Auburn in the Peach, and Navy will face Virginia in the Military. What does the Mountain West have left? Utah State against New Mexico State in the NOVA Home Loans Arizona.

By this point, Boise State will have already faced Oregon in the Las Vegas, and San Diego State will have dealt with Army in your Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl. Wyoming will have already played, too, along with Colorado State. Fresno State will have to carry the league’s water.

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The Hawaii Bowl?

Yeah, Fresno State having already done the Hawaii trip will matter.

This team knows how to control games and do exactly what it wants to defensively. Houston might be far better now with King starting to roll, but the Bulldogs will come out roaring defensively, and the offense and McMaryion will be just effective enough to keep things moving.

The biggest key? Ball control. Houston is 106th in the nation in time of possession. Fresno State keeps the ball for over 31 minutes per game.

Final Score

Fresno State 27, Houston 23
More Bowl Info & Get Tickets

Line

Houston -2.5, o/u: 49.5

ATS Confidence: 2
5: Being in the bar already
0: Watching ball drop … and then trying to get into the bar

Must See Rating: 3
5: New Year’s Eve: Ministry of Sound, Defected London NYE
0: New Year’s Eve with Maroon 5, Las Vegas

Hawai’i Bowl History, Results

Dec. 24, 2016 Hawaii 52, Middle Tennessee 35
Dec. 24, 2015 San Diego State 42 Cincinnati 7
Dec. 24, 2013 Oregon State 38 Boise State 23
Dec. 24, 2012 SMU 43 Fresno State 10
Dec. 24, 2011 Southern Miss 24 Nevada 17
Dec. 24, 2010 Tulsa 62 Hawaii 35
Dec. 24, 2009 SMU 45 Nevada 10
Dec. 24, 2008 Notre Dame 49 Hawaii 21
Dec. 23, 2007 East Carolina 41 Boise State 38
Dec. 24, 2006 Hawaii 41 Arizona State 24
Dec. 20, 2005 Nevada 49 UCF 48 (OT)
Dec. 24, 2004 Hawaii 59 UAB 40
Dec. 25, 2003 Hawaii 54 Houston 48 (3 OT)
Dec. 25, 2002 Tulane 36 Hawaii 28

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