Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Rice Owls (-2, 59.5)
Two teams that ended the regular season with a loss will try to bounce back at the Hawai’i Bowl as the Fresno State Bulldogs (6-7, 5-3 Mountain West) clash with the Rice Owls (7-5, 5-3 C-USA) on Wednesday, December 24, at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu (8:00 p.m. Eastern).
Fresno State ended with a 6-7 record on the season, but still qualified for postseason play because they dropped below .500 in the Mountain West title game (losing 28-14 to Boise State). Despite the loss, the Bulldogs did better than expected in the title game, covering as huge 22.5-point underdogs to the highly touted Broncos.
They average a decent 28.1 PPG but allow 32.6, and they haven’t kept an opponent to under 20 points in the last seven games.
Junior QB Brian Burrell threw for 2,576 yards, 22 touchdowns, and 16 interceptions this season, while leading rusher Marteze Waller put up 1,292 yards and 11 touchdowns on the ground for the balanced Bulldogs. Fresno State is 12-12 overall in bowl games.
Two years ago, the Bulldogs were blown out in the Hawai’i Bowl, 43-10, by SMU.
“I know natural comparisons are: It’s the same Hawaii Bowl. But really, it’s a different football team and the energy of our guys. This season is not over. Two years ago, maybe they thought the [Mountain West] championship was it. But this season, clearly we need to win this football game and get these guys winning a bowl game”, Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said.
The Rice Owls are 7-5 on the season with an embarrassing 76-31 loss in their last outing against Louisiana Tech.
“That’s one of the worst losses I’ve ever experienced playing football at any level,” junior quarterback Driphus Jackson said about the defeat against Louisiana Tech. “It’s going to take a while to forget that one. That’s going to light a fire.”
The Owls are 6-7 in bowl games, all-time, and lost last season, 44-7, to Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl. Like Fresno State, the Owls surrendered more points than they scored this year, averaging about 28 while giving up over 30. They were able to stymie the average competition offered up by Conference-USA in the middle portion of the year, winning six straight conference games from late September to early November.
Rice is a two-point favorite in the odds and the over/under is at 59.5.
(Photo credit: Johntex (wikipedia) [http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5/legalcode]. Photo has been cropped.)