Even though the Hawaii Bowl is being played on a Sunday this year, it’s still such a Christmas Eve tradition that the NFL isn’t going to be playing Sunday Night Football up against it. In the latest edition of the postseason showcase, the Fresno State Bulldogs and Houston Cougars will participate in the Christmas Eve classic.
Houston Bowl History
The last time the Cougars played in the Hawaii Bowl was back in 2003. They lost that year with Art Briles as their head coach.
Houston has played into December in 11 of the last 13 seasons, though the results are surely mixed. Tom Herman guided the team to its biggest win ever over Florida State in the Peach Bowl on New Year’s Day 2016. Last year’s team was considered a disappointment after getting as high as No. 6 in the nation, losing in the Las Vegas Bowl.
Major Applewhite coached that game in Sin City as the interim head coach for Houston, but now he’s the man in charge and trying to lay the foundation to get a much bigger job in the not-distant future.
Fresno State Bowl History
The Bulldogs finished dead last in the Mountain West last season at 1-11, but Jeff Tedford has done a remarkable job this year getting to the MWC Championship Game.
This program has played in three of the last six Hawaii Bowls, losing in both 2012 and 2014.
In fact, Fresno State hasn’t won a postseason game since 2007, dropping six bowls in a row since that point.
Why Houston Will Win the Hawaii Bowl
The Cougars knocked off South Florida this year in Tampa, which was no small feat when you consider how good the game was between USF and UCF in Orlando on Black Friday.
Sure, the Cougs were inconsistent in 2017. But when they were good, they were really good.
Steven Dunbar and Linell Bonner combined for 1,732 receiving yards this season. They only had three and four touchdowns, respectively, but that isn’t the end of the world for a team that rushed for 28 scores in 2017.
Ed Oliver, the first five-star recruit to come to a Group of Five school, became the first sophomore to win the Outland Trophy this year, and he did so with a bum knee and constantly facing double- and triple-teams.
Why Fresno State Will Win the Hawaii Bowl
Why should we doubt the Bulldogs? They upset New Mexico, San Diego State and Boise State this season, and outside of a confusing loss to UNLV, there wasn’t a single horrid mark on the schedule. There’s no shame in losses to Alabama, Washington and Boise State, all three of which came on the road.
The Bulldogs rank No. 9 in the nation in scoring defense, allowing 17.2 points per game. It’s been a remarkable turnaround for a team that couldn’t stop your average peewee squad from scoring touchdowns last season.
Hawaii Bowl Prediction
Remember Jadeveon Clowney’s bowl game against Michigan in which he single-handedly wrecked the Wolverines? We have a feeling that Oliver is about to do the same thing to Fresno State. The Bulldogs haven’t seen a mammoth like him all season outside of when they played against Alabama; that game was lost 41-10.
The Cougars aren’t the Crimson Tide, of course, but they’re not getting enough respect in this game. If Houston can figure out how to get some respectable quarterback play from freshman D’Eriq King in the four weeks leading into this game, the Cougars should ultimately claim the Hawaii Bowl.
Hawaii Bowl Pick: Houston 27, Fresno State 20
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