Hawai’i Bowl Preview: Fresno State Bulldogs (9-4) vs. Houston Cougars (7-4)

Fresno State Bulldogs (9-4, 7-2) vs. Houston Cougars (7-4, 5-3)

Date: Sunday, December 24th

Kickoff: 8:30pm EST/7:30pm CT

Location: Aloha Stadium (Honolulu, HI)


Line: Houston -2.5, O/U 49

Series Record: First meeting

Payout: $650,000

The Hawaii Bowl. The forever reigning champion of best bowl destination. If you’re not making it to the playoffs or at the very least an access bowl, is there a better place to go to this time of year than the Aloha State? As I look out my window in Atlanta, its cold, wet, and gray. I look at pictures of Hawaii just to remind myself that the sun still exists.

Recently the Bahamas Bowl has given it a run for its money, but let’s face it. You can’t surf in the Bahamas. Let’s get leid guys.

Two traditional G5 heavyweights will battle it out in the 15th annual Hawaii Bowl. Fresno State vs. Houston. It will be a measuring stick for both programs and their respective conferences.

It’s AAC vs. the Mountain West. The consensus top two conferences in the G5. G5’s version of east coast vs. west coast. Traditionally you think Fresno State and Houston; typicall quarterbacks come to mind. Look at the list:

Trent Dilfer
David Carr
Derek Carr
Andre Ware
David Klinger
Case Keenum

If you hadn’t paid attention to both schools all year, you might be expecting a lot of points, but that isn’t the case. The Over/Under is set pretty low at 49. Houston has all world, Outland Award-winning DT Ed Oliver anchoring their defense. Fresno State’s defense is top ten in scoring defense. Expect a slugfest in Oahu.

Enter the contestants, a revived Fresno State, led by former Cal coach Jeff Tedford. The Bulldogs went 9-4 and won the MWC West Division and lost to Boise State 17-14 in the championship game. Fresno State’s defense allows only 17.5 ppg and just 3.5 ypc on the ground. They held Rashaad Penny to 69 yards on 15 carries which is not an easy feat.

They also get a fair amount of pressure from guys like Robert Stanley, Malik Forrester, and Tobeanna Okeke. But it’s sophomore Jeffrey Allison that is the star of the defense, 113 tackles on the year. Expect him to go in the first three rounds of the 2019 NFL draft.

Houston has Ed Oliver though. 69 tackles, 14.5 TFL, 5.5 sacks. The former 5-star recruit lived up to the hype and still has one year of eligibility before he can declare for the draft. Major Applewhite has to be happy about that.

These aren’t the Tom Hermann’s Houston Cougars. Major Applewhite has already put his imprint on this team for better or for worse. Points per game are down in 2017 to 28 from 36 in 2016. But, a 3-4 defense under much-maligned Mark D’Onofrio, has Houston in the top 40 in scoring defense. Houston playing defense? What is the world coming to?

Key Players

Fresno State
QB Marcus McMaryion
WR KeeSean Johnson
RB Jordan Mims
RB Josh Hokit
RB Ronnie Rivers
LB Jeffrey Allison
DE Robert Stanley

DT Ed Oliver
LB D’Juan Hines
QB Kyle Postma
RB Duke Catalon
RB D’Eriq King
WR Linnel Bonner (questionable)
WR Steven Dunbar

Fresno State 21
Houston 17


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