Greg Tepper's Blog
Hawaii Bowl Preview
Posted by Jake Shaw on 24 December 2012 | 0 comments

Jake Shaw previews SMU's tussle with Fresno State in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

 By Jake Shaw

SMU (6-6/5-3 in CUSA) vs Fresno State (9-3/7-1 in MWC)
7 p.m. CST today, ESPN

June Jones is back in Hawaii, the place where he guided several quarterbacks to record-breaking seasons. But he must exercise some self control to give his team a chance to pull off the upset of Fresno State in tonight's Hawaii Bowl.

The way to attack Fresno State's 19th ranked defense is not through the air, where the Bulldogs rank fourth overall nationally. It's on the ground -- 71 teams rank better against the run defensively than Fresno State. Thus, SMU's chances should ride on senior RB Zach Line, whose 1,207 rushing yards this season gives him three straight years over the 1,000-yard mark. Two touchdowns by Line would not only increase SMU's chances of winning, they would also give Line the school record for touchdowns at 48, one more than the mark set by Eric Dickerson.

As important as it is for Line to have a productive day, QB Garrett Gilbert must keep up his relative hot streak. Though Gilbert had just one 300-yard effort in the last five games, he didn't throw a single interception in that stretch, something he failed to do in the previous seven games. But that's the rub for SMU.

Gilbert has played decently this season with a few bright spots mixed in, but he averaged less than 200 yards per game against the five winning teams on SMU's schedule. And Fresno State isn't just a winning team, it's a program that all but negates opponents' passing games. Teams average just 163 yards passing per game against Fresno State, completing barely more than 50 percent of their passes. And Fresno State's 20 interceptions as a team are tied for fourth nationally.

When you throw in Fresno State's offense -- led by a name (Derek Carr) Houstonians should recognize -- this bowl game really is a mismatch. Carr, the younger brother of David, the first-ever draft pick by the Texans, has thrown for 3,742 yards, 36 TDs and just 5 INTs. The running game has supplemented Carr's arm with 1,991 yards. With Fresno State's high-powered offense, coupled with a Top 20 defense, SMU will need its best game of the year to have a chance to win.

Key stat: 1, the number of NCAA teams ranked nationally in the Top 20 in both total offense and total defense. That team is Fresno State, which ranks 14th offensively and 19th defensively. SMU, by comparison, ranks 95th and 65th, respectively.
The mob says: Fresno State by 11
So says I: Fresno State 34, SMU 20


Jake Shaw is a special contributor to


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