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How SMU Got Here
SMU snuck into the postseason at 6-6 thanks to a win in its final game of the season at home against Tulsa as 5.5-point underdogs. The Mustangs started the season 1-3 and 2-4 but rallied to take four of their final six games to become bowl eligible. When SMU won, it won big and when it lost, it lost big as well as five of its six wins were by 17 points or more while four of its six losses were by 22 or more points. Which teams actually shows up in Hawaii? Chances are SMU will be pretty motivated as the seniors can hold their hat on being the only class in the history of the program to go to four straight bowl games and they could become the only teams to win a bowl game in consecutive years.
How Fresno State Got Here
After finishing 4-9 in its final year in the WAC, Fresno St. made a statement in its first year in the MWC, going 9-3 overall including 7-1 in the conference to grab a share of the title. The Bulldogs started slow with a 2-2 record through four games but went on a 7-1 to end the season with the lone loss coming against Boise St. by 10 points on the road. The other losses were at Oregon, which was no surprise, and at Tulsa which came by just a single point. While they are back in the postseason after a year off, the Bulldogs should be pretty motivated to win as they have lost three straight bowl games so the seniors will want to go out winners. Fresno St. won its last five games by an average of 25.8 ppg.
Play On - Any team (FRESNO ST) an excellent offensive team (>=34 PPG) against an average defensive team (21-28 PPG), after leading in their previous game by 24 or more points at the half
113-61 over the last 10 seasons. ( 64.9% | 45.9 units )
11-9 this year. ( 55.0% | 1.1 units )
Going back to their last 28 games, the Mustangs are 14-0 when scoring first and 0-14 when they do not.
The Bulldogs bring in one of the top offenses in the country as they are ranked 14th overall and 12th in scoring and they really lit it up during their closing five-game winning streak, averaging 47.2 ppg. They will be licking their chops facing the SMU stop unit which has not stopped many teams this year. The Mustangs have a middle of the road defense but while having success against mediocre teams, holding four teams to 13 points or less, they allowed an average of 38.1 ppg in the other eight games. The SMU offense made up for the defense in some cases but it still ranked 93rd in the country and scoring was only better because it is 12th in the nation in turnover margin. The Mustangs will face a Bulldogs defense ranked 19th overall and 27th in scoring.
SMU is 3-12 ATS in its last 15 games away from home following a win as an underdog. Fresno St. is a perfect 9-0 ATS as a favorite and 7-0 ATS after scoring 37 or more points this season.
June Jones has ample reason to feel the Hawaii Bowl is a home game.
"Coming into the stadium it sure does," Jones said. "We're in the same locker room. I know where everybody is. I recognize all the workers. From that standpoint, it does. But it all comes down to seeing friends. I try to teach my kids that you play the game and you want to win, but there's more to it than that. It's about the people around you and all the intangible things that make an ordinary team better."
Jones will be coaching for the 75th time in Aloha Stadium when his Mustangs (6-6) face Fresno State (9-3) in the Hawaii Bowl. He hasn't lost in this stadium since Oregon State beat Hawaii on Dec. 2, 2006. Hawaii had a perfect regular season in 2007, and then Jones bolted for SMU over what he felt were hollow promises about upgrading facilities.
SMU, which had gone 25 years without a bowl game dating to its NCAA penalty, ended that drought when Jones brought it to the Hawaii Bowl in 2009 and, despite being nearly a two-touchdown favorite to another MWC team, scored the first 38 points in a 45-10 win over Nevada.
LINE: Fresno State opened at -11.5 and has since climbed to -12. The total opened at 59.5 and has remained steady.
WEATHER: The forecast is calling for a 51 percent chance of rain later in the game with temperatures in the high 60s. Winds are expected to blow ENE at 7 mph.
CONSENSUS: 57 percent of Consensus picks are on Fresno State while 66 percent are leaning toward the over.
* Bulldogs are 1-4 ATS in their last five Bowl games.
* Mustangs are 5-1 ATS in their last six vs. MWC.
* Over is 4-0 in Bulldogs' last four Bowl games.
* Over is 5-2 in Mustangs' last seven games overall.
ABOUT FRESNO STATE (9-3, 7-1 Mountain West, 11-1 ATS): Led by first-year coach Tim DeRuyter, the Bulldogs shared the conference championship with Boise State and San Diego State. Junior quarterback Derek Carr was named Mountain West Offensive Player of the Year after throwing for a career-high 3,742 yards with 36 touchdowns and only five interceptions. Freshman wide receiver Davante Adams led the conference in receptions (89), receiving yards (1,168) and touchdown catches (13), while senior Robbie Rouse rushed for 1,468 yards and 12 touchdowns. Senior defensive back Philip Thomas leads the Bulldogs’ defense, which ranked 19th in the nation while allowing an average of 335.3 yards. Thomas was named the Mountain West’s top defensive player after recording a career-high 82 tackles and eight interceptions. After recording only nine takeaways last year, Fresno State tied for third nationally with SMU and Boise State with 33 turnovers gained this season.
ABOUT SMU (6-6, 5-3 Conference USA, 7-5 ATS): The Mustangs needed their victory over Tulsa to become bowl eligible after losing 36-14 at Rice on Nov. 17. The offense is led by senior Zach Line, who was named C-USA Offensive Player of the Year after rushing for 1,207 yards and 12 touchdowns. Quarterback Garrett Gilbert is a dual threat who had 14 passing touchdowns and seven rushing. Gilbert has a 14-to-13 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but has thrown 126 passes without an interception. The defense is led by defensive end Margus Hunt and linebacker Ja'Gared Davis, who forced three turnovers against Tulsa. The Mustangs are vulnerable in the secondary, where they've lost two starters to injuries. Over the past two-plus seasons, SMU is 14-0 when scoring first, but 0-14 when the opponent scores first.