SMU MUSTANGS (6-6)
vs. FRESNO STATE BULLDOGS (9-3)
Hawaii Bowl - Honolulu, HI
Kickoff: Monday, 8:00 p.m. EDT
Line: Fresno State -12, Total: 60
Fresno State tries to extend its long win streak on Monday as it is heavily favored to beat former WAC rival SMU in the Hawaii Bowl.
Fresno State has won five straight games (SU and ATS), scoring at least 42 points in each of the five victories. That puts the Bulldogs at 11-1 ATS for the year, with the lone ATS defeat being a 10-point loss at Boise State as a 7-point underdog. SMU is just 1-4 (SU and ATS) in non-home games, scoring only 19.6 PPG and allowing 32.8 PPG, compared to its 37 to 20 average home score. Both schools are tied for third in the nation with 33 forced turnovers this season, but Fresno is tied for fourth in FBS in passing defense (163 passing YPG), while the Mustangs rank 106th in FBS with 271 passing YPG allowed. This will be the seventh all-time meeting between the schools. After SMU won the first-ever meeting, 24-14 in 1999, Fresno State has won each of the five matchups from 2000 to 2004, prevailing by 7, 25, 23, 9 and 42 points.
Can Fresno State win by two touchdowns on Monday night? For the answer, download your FREE copy of the StatFox Edge College Bowl Guide for all the StatFox Experts picks for each of the 35 bowls, both Against The Spread and Over/Under.
Mustangs QB Garrett Gilbert has been very interception-prone in his college career at both Texas and SMU (36 career INT), but he has not thrown a pick in five straight games spanning 161 pass attempts. He also has seven rushing touchdowns in this span, but has thrown just 3 TD passes in the five games, giving him 14 TD and 13 INT for the year. He will be making his first bowl appearance since replacing injured Colt McCoy in the 2010 BCS National Championship Game and throwing 2 TD and 4 INT in the 37-21 loss to Alabama. Although the Mustangs don't run the football particularly well (129 YPG, 96th in FBS), they do have an excellent senior running back in Zach Line (1,207 rush yds, 12 TD). Line has three straight 1,000-yard seasons and has rushed for at least 80 yards in eight straight games, with 6 TD in the past three contests. He was unable to play in last year's PapaJohns.com Bowl win over Pittsburgh, but he ran for 103 yards on 17 carries in the 2010 Armed Forces Bowl versus Army, and also scored a touchdown in his team's 2009 Hawaii Bowl appearance, a 45-10 crushing of Nevada. Defensively, this SMU team has allowed 36+ points five times this year and allows 400 total YPG for the season (66th in nation). The rushing defense is solid (129 YPG, 2nd in C-USA), but the passing defense has allowed at least 295 yards to six of their opponents, including 413 to Tulsa in the last game, a 35-27 victory. SMU has 17 takeaways in the past six games, including nine against Houston on Oct. 18.
Fresno State QB Derek Carr has never played in a bowl game, but he has been incredible during his team's five-game win streak, completing 68% of his passes for 1,660 yards (332 YPG), 17 TD and 1 INT. For the season, Carr has thrown for 3,742 yards (312 YPG), 36 TD and just 5 INT, which is why he ranks 9th in the nation in passing efficiency (160.64). It also helps to have star freshman WR Davante Adams who has 13 TD catches and 97 receiving YPG (14th in FBS). But the Bulldogs also know how to run the football (166 YPG, 4.4 YPC), thanks mostly to RB Robbie Rouse whose 122 rushing YPG rank 13th in the nation. Rouse has 14 total TD this year, which doesn't count his 1-yard TD pass against Air Force in his last game. Rouse has three straight 1,000-yard seasons, and has rushed for at least 70 yards in every game this year, including four straight 100-yard efforts, totaling 589 rushing yards (147 YPG). Fresno also has playmakers on defense, especially senior S Phillip Thomas who leads the nation with eight interceptions, running three back for touchdowns. Considering Gilbert propensity to force throws, Thomas could make a big difference in this game. In addition to its stellar pass defense, the Bulldogs also rank tied for 11th in the nation in sacks (2.9 per game). They have forced 14 turnovers in the past five games.