Mele Kalikimaka, the Hawai’i Bowl is coming this Christmas Eve in what is sure to be an aloha-filled matchup between the Fresno State Bulldogs and the Houston Cougars. After a great single-season turnaround, the Bulldogs are back in a bowl for the first time in three years. But the record before that wasn’t much to shake a shaka at, with the Bulldogs going 0-6 both straight up and against the spread over their last six bowl appearances. Can Fresno State snap that past bowl skid with a defining win against the Houston Cougars in Honolulu this Christmas Eve? Ho ho ho brah – why not!? Register to bet and wager with your pick.
Betting Preview for the Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Houston Cougars Hawaii Bowl Game on Dec 24 2017
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI
When: Sunday, December 24 2017, 8:30 PM EST
Line: Fresno State Bulldogs (-2.5) vs Houston Cougars (+2.5) – view all NCAA Football lines
TV Broadcast: ESPN
Betting on the Fresno State Bulldogs -2.5 (9-4)
Fresno State came up three points short of being the Mountain West Champions when it went to Boise State and failed to hold a 14–10 halftime lead. It was a defensive struggle in the second half of that one. The Dogs failed to score for 30 minutes. The Broncos hadn’t scored for 25 minutes until they pounded in a two-yard touchdown to cap a 90-yard drive in the last five minutes of play for the go-ahead score. Final score: 17–14 Broncos.
Quarterback Marcus McMaryion scored both of Fresno State’s touchdowns on short-yardage runs. He only had seven carries but that isn’t out of the ordinary for a bit of an unorthodox Fresno State team. In this particular game the Bulldogs ran the ball 35 times despite no single ballcarrier taking it even 10 times. This were McMaryion’s only two TD runs of the season. He has 48 carries to this point, fourth-most on the team behind three guys who all have 95 or more. Through the air, McMaryion has over 2300 yards and 14 touchdowns to just four picks.
But the real hallmark of this team is its defense. The Bulldogs had won four games in a row since suffering its only regular season conference loss to UNLV. In those four games, Fresno State game up 13, 7, 21 and 17 points. The 21, coincidentally, came at Aloha Stadium against Hawaii. At the start of the conference schedule, Fresno had a stretch of 13 points allowed in three weeks in a row, combined. All three games were wins: San Jose State, New Mexico and San Diego State.
Betting on the vs Houston Cougars +2.5 (7-4)
At 5–3, Houston didn’t get a chance to play in the American Athletic Conference’s Championship Game. That right belonged to Memphis in the West Division, who lost a doozy of a game to Central Florida. The Cougars lost to Memphis but also dropped two head-scratchers against Tulsa and Tulane, the two worst teams in the West Division. They got smacked at Tulsa the week before the much-anticipated match with Memphis and then lost a narrow one at Tulane in the penultimate game of the season that finished the Cougs off prematurely in the conference.
All three quarterbacks on the roster got playing time, enough for all three to throw for at least 750 yards. But the guy who finished the season upright and as the starter was D’Eriq King. King’s 175.0 passer rating was the best of all three QBs and he only threw one interception, too. He scored eight TDs on the ground as a dual-threat, averaging 5.4 yards per carry.
What Houston team will we see in the Hawaii Bowl? Because they didn’t have to play a championship game in the conference, the Cougars have been off even longer than the Bulldogs, which won’t likely play much into it. Both of those bad losses came away from home in true road games. Houston doesn’t have to worry about going on the road to a hostile environment. But King does have to contend with that ferocious FSU D.
The Bulldogs’ defense didn’t have to play many quarterbacks who can both throw and run as well as King can in a light Mountain West Conference. I’ll take the big offense from the stronger conference in a matchup of contrasting strengths. Pick: Houston Cougars (-2.5)
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