Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 24 bowl menu, which, after a one-day reprieve, is back to just a lone game on Christmas Eve. And this lone game will feature one of the three teams (Hawaii, say hello to 5-7 Mississippi State, North Texas) that failed to have at least a .500 record in the regular season but will still be bowling and will further the very valid argument that there are way, way, way too may bowl games. Still.
WHO: Hawaii (6-7) vs. Middle Tennessee State (8-4)
WHAT: The 15th Hawaii Bowl
WHERE: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: There are 128 teams at the FBS level. Middle Tennessee State was 101st in scoring defense (34.4 points per game) in 2016 while Hawaii was 115th (37.5 ppg). Seven times in 12 games this season, the Rainbow Warriors gave up 40 or more points; the Blue Raiders did as much in six of their games. The status of MTSU’s starting quarterback, Brent Stockstill, is somewhat up in the air because of a broken collarbone suffered in early November, and is leading to some books keeping this game off the board as the sophomore, and son of the head football coach, has yet to be officially ruled out of the game. UH will be appearing in its first bowl game since 2010 — the 2010 Hawaii Bowl — and is looking for its first bowl win since 2006 — the 2006 Hawaii Bowl. MTSU, meanwhile, will be looking to snap a three-game bowl losing streak and trying to win its first postseason game since 2009. If you’re into draft evaluations and are searching for NFL sleepers, you might want to tune in just to watch running back I’Tavius Mathers. The 5-11, 197-pound senior has rushed for 1,504 yards and 16 touchdowns this season for the Blue Raiders, and has averaged 6.8 yards per carry. The Ole Miss transfer is also second on the team with 62 receptions out of the backfield — tied for second amongst FBS backs — and has three touchdown catches for good measure. One final fact that will in no way, shape or form affect the outcome of this game: Hawaii will become the first FBS team to begin its season outside of the United States (vs. Cal in Australia) and end it outside of the continental United States. So they have that going for it, which is nice.
THE LINE: Hawaii, +6
THE PREDICTION: Middle Tennessee State 44, Hawaii 31