A Preview of the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
Southern Methodist Head Football Coach June Jones returns to the Hawaiian Islands where he once led the Warriors to a BCS bowl game. This time however, he and his 6-6 Mustangs will be a heavy underdog to Fresno State of the Mountain West Conference. For Fresno State, this season marked a return to prominence under first year coach Tim DeRuyter. The Bulldogs finished 9-3 and earned a share of the MWC title.
When Fresno State has the ball: Quarterback Derek Carr leads an offense that ranked 14th in the country averaging 488.5 points per game. The even better news for Bulldogs’ fans is that Carr will return for his senior season as well. Carr completes nearly 70% of his passes and his number one target is freshman Davante Adams who recorded 89 receptions and 13 touchdowns. Senior RB Robbie Rouse completed his third straight 1,000 yard rushing campaign and chipped in with almost 500 yards in receiving as well.
The Mustangs give up about 27 points per game defensively which is good for 57th overall nationally. SMU ranked dead last in Conference USA in terms of getting pressure on the quarterback with just 17 total sacks. Ironically, they tied for the league lead in interceptions with 19 and had a league-leading six touchdowns.
When SMU has the ball: If the name Garrett Gilbert sounds familiar then it probably is. The former Texas Longhorn who once took over early in the 2010 national title game for the injured Colt McCoy, now leads the Mustangs into the Hawaii Bowl. Gilbert completes around 53% of his passes but has not thrown an interception in the last five games. Gilbert is also the team’s second-leading rusher with 248 yards and seven touchdowns.
June Jones relied much more heavily on the run than he has in recent years and that’s been a good thing for senior Zach Line who rushed for 1,207 yards and 12 touchdowns. Incredibly, Line is just one touchdown short of Eric Dickerson’s school record of 47 heading into the game. Fresno State was second in the MWC in sacks, but led the conference in interceptions with 20 and touchdowns with six.
Fresno State Bowl Record: 12-11, lost four of last five bowl games including three straight.
SMU Bowl Record: 6-7-1, won three of their last four bowl games.
Series Notes: The teams used to both be members of the Western Athletic Conference where they played each year. Fresno leads the head-to-head 5-1 with an overwhelming scoring advantage. In their five wins over the Mustangs, the Bulldogs outscored them 144-38.
SMU (+12.5) vs Fresno State – They easy play here is to just suggest with these two offenses that you should play the over regardless of what the number may be but I don’t see it quite that way. Yes, there will be points scored but I have a strong suspicion that that the Fresno State Bulldogs will be doing most of the scoring.
I like the experience that June Jones brings with him in terms of preparing for a bowl game. Bulldogs’ coach Tim DeRuyter will be orchestrating his first bowl trip in such a capacity. This is usually not a huge deal, but considering the trip is to Hawaii, keeping the players focused will be no easy task.
I look for SMU to try to run the ball with Zach Line but the problem is that Fresno State ranks 33rd in the country at stopping the run so Garrett Gilbert must throw the ball and I don’t like his chances. Derek Carr and his Bulldogs’ offense are just too much for the Mustangs in this one and I like them to cover and win big in completing a great season of turn-around for the Bulldogs.