Fresno State vs. SMU
Mon., Dec. 24 — 8 p.m. ET, ESPN
Honolulu – Aloha Stadium
After a quarter century without a postseason appearance, June Jones led the Mustangs to the 2009 Hawaii Bowl, following up a 1-11 showing in his first season with SMU.
Now it’s a habit. This will be Jones’ fourth-consecutive bowl game, returning to a place that holds special memories.
In 2007, Jones led Hawaii to an undefeated season and BCS berth. Getting torn to shreds by Georgia in the Sugar Bowl was a bummer, but the journey was magical.
Winning didn’t come easy at SMU (6-6) this year, but the Mustangs got the job done when they had to, beating C-USA champ Tulsa, 35-27, in the regular-season finale to earn this trip to Honolulu.
Fresno State (9-3) has a much deeper sense of momentum, having won its last five games and seven of its last eight.
Bulldog quarterback Derek Carr has thrown 36 touchdown passes, against only five interceptions, and his backfield mate Robbie Rouse rushed for 1,468 yards and 12 scores. That duo rightfully gets a lot of attention, but the reason Fresno State is so vastly improved over its 4-9 campaign from a year ago is because of its defense.
First-year head coach Tim DeRuyter can be confident that his defenders, who allow only 22 points per game, will have more than enough backbone to fend off Mustang quarterback Garrett Gilbert (remember him from his days with Bevo?) and running back Zach Line.
Opening point spread: Fresno State by 11 1/2
The pick: Fresno State 38-24
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