Hawaii Bowl Preview
Fresno State (9-3) vs. Southern Methodist (6-6)
December 24, 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
What to expect with the Bulldogs: Fresno State has won six of its last seven games – including five in a row – thanks to the excellent play from junior quarterback Derek Carr. During the Bulldogs’ win streak, he has 1,160 yards, 17 touchdowns and just one interception. He’s been one of the most efficient gunslingers in the country during this time, which is a big reason Fresno State is dominating opponents as of late and earned a share of the Mountain West Conference title.
Between Carr, his balanced running game, the resurgence of a fantastic offensive line, and exceptional receivers, this could end up being a long day for June Jones and Co. SMU allows over 270 yards and 2.2 touchdowns (103rd in NCAA) through the air per game against lesser quality opponents (C-USA), so expect Fresno to attack the secondary like it has been all year.
What to expect with the Mustangs: One of the more inconsistent teams in the nation, SMU won its final game of the season against Tulsa – a huge upset, mind you – after falling to Rice 36-14 the week before. Although the offense has been a catalyst at times, this mostly lays on the defense, which has been one of the worst against the pass the entire season.
Quarterback Garrett Gilbert has seen his average pass attempts deplete over the last few weeks after throwing 13 interceptions in the first seven games. He hasn’t thrown one since, but it’s obvious the coaching staff has been much more cautious when it comes to his decision-making. But for the Mustangs to have any chance to win, they’ll need to let ‘er rip – and safety Phillip Thomas, who leads the nation in picks (8), will be waiting.
Prediction: Which SMU team will show up? The team that dominated 10-3 Tulsa or the team that fell to 2-10 Tulane and could barely sputter two offensive touchdowns against a terrible defense in Rice? This could be the difference between an embarrassing blowout and a closely contested game, but either way, Fresno State possesses too much talent and wins the matchup battle in nearly every category.
Fresno State 45, SMU 27 --- via Bowl Predictions