Fresno State Bulldogs vs. SMU Mustangs (+12, 59.5)
SHERATON HAWAII BOWL GAME STORYLINES
1. The lone Christmas Eve bowl game figures to be gift-wrapped with plenty of offense. Southern Methodist will try to keep pace with Fresno State, which is ranked 14th nationally in total offense at 488.5 yards per game while averaging 40.2 points. The Mustangs average 29.5 points and scored a school-record 72 against Houston in October.
2. SMU coach June Jones is familiar with the islands after coaching Hawaii for nine seasons. The Mustangs, who are making their school-record fourth consecutive bowl appearance, won the 2009 Hawaii Bowl 45-10 against Nevada. The Bulldogs are making their 12th bowl appearance in the last 14 seasons, and are coming off their first conference championship since 1999.
3. Both teams enter the contest riding a wave of momentum after finishing the regular season on a high note. Fresno State has won five straight games, including a 48-15 victory over Air Force on Nov. 24. SMU went 2-2 down the stretch, but the Mustangs beat Tulsa 35-27 in their season finale to hand the Golden Hurricane their first conference loss. Fresno State lost to Tulsa 27-26 on Sept. 22.
TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN.
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 Covers 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.