The first two weeks of the college football bowl season has offered a wide range of exciting matchups, including Arizona's thrilling 49-48 last-minute comeback victory over Nevada.
While Utah State took care of Toledo, there are still tons of great matchups left ahead, including the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl between the Fresno State Bulldogs and the Southern Methodist Mustangs. Both teams head out to the sunshine and beaches of Honolulu to see who the best team will be in the Pacific Isles.
HERE is the full schedule of college bowl games for the 2012 season. The first round of Bowl Predictions from Sports World Report can be found here and includes the Rose Bowl, Fiesta Bowl and National Championship game.
Monday, December 24, 2012
Fresno State vs. SMU
Aloha Stadium, Sheraton Hawaii Bowl
8:00 PM ET, ESPN
Fresno State comes in as the better team record-wise, but the Bulldogs will not overlook SMU. The Bulldogs are looking for a sixth straight win and a chance to earn the best record in program history.
In their first season in the Mountain West Conference, the Bulldogs were stellar, going 7-1 to earn a share of the conference title with Boise State. The win gave the school its first conference championship of any kind since 1999.
Fresno State is one of the highest-powered offenses in the nation and gains nearly 500 total yards per game, ranking 14th in the country. The team is ranked 12th in passing yards with 322 per game and are scoring over 40 points per game, good for 12th in the FBS division.
The defense has been solid, ranked 27th in the nation while allowing 22.3 points, and has only given up 40 points once this season. In the final game against Air Force, Fresno State won 48-15 while racking up 603 total yards of offense.
The Bulldogs haven't won a bowl game in three years and is looking to reach double-digit victories for the first time since 2001 when the team went 11-3. According to the Associated Press, the team has five nine win seasons this decade.
One of the big reasons for the success on offense this season has been due to quarterback Derek Carr. The junior, who is the brother of New York Giants backup quarterback David Carr, was named Mountain West offensive player of the year this season and said that he is planning on returning for his senior year, meaning the Hawaii Bowl will not be his final game in a Bulldogs uniform.
"Hard work pays off and I'm a firm believer in that," said Carr to the Associated Press. "You know personally how hard you worked, when it comes to fruition like this and you get to hold the (championship) trophy, you know you've done something right."
Carr has passed for 3,742 yards with 36 touchdowns and just five interceptions while completing over 68 percent of his passes.
The junior has thrown for a touchdown in every game this season and hasn't thrown an interception since October. He has passed for at least four touchdowns in six games this season and has five in the 52-40 win over San Diego State on Sept. 29.
Fresno State started the season alternating wins at 2-2 until the team won two straight over San Diego State and Colorado State. Following a 20-10 loss at then-No. 24 Boise State on Oct. 13, the team has won five straight in dominating fashion, scoring at least 42 points in every game and winning by an average of 25 points, including a 45-10 win against Hawaii.
The Bulldogs are one of the only teams in the Mountain West with a 3,500 yard passer, a 1,000-yards rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver. Fresno State will give SMU numerous weapons to defend, including running back Robbie Rouse and wideout Davante Adams.
Rouse has rushed for 1,468 yards and 12 touchdowns and is averaging 5.5 yards per carry. The senior rushed for 106 yards in the season finale and has posted at least 100-yards in every game but three this year. He has a season-high 261 yards and two touchdowns two weeks ago in the 52-36 win over Nevada and has scored a touchdown in three of the past four games.
"This is the best season since I've been here, and the best season in at least over a decade," Rouse said. "... With all the adversity that was thrown at us with new coaches, getting a new scheme and us coming off of last season and how we all pulled together as a team. As captains we got everyone together and were able to pull off this season and it feels great."
Adams has been stellar in his freshman season, making 89 receptions for 1,168 yards and 13 touchdowns, including a season-long 89-yard score against New Mexico on Oct 27 in the team's 49-32 win.
Last season Fresno State went 4-9 in the final season of head coach Pat Hill's 15-year career at the school and finished in a three-way tie in the Western Athletic Conference with a 3-4 record. The team did not make a bowl game in their final season in the conference before moving to the Mountain West Conference for 2012.
SMU enters the game 6-6 after a 35-27 victory against Tulsa to finish the regular season. Mustangs head coach June Jones returns to the stadium and state where he had so much success with Hawaii.
Jones coached the Warriors from 1999 to 2007 and went 76-41, including 4-2 in bowls. He led the team to a 12-1 record in 2007 and took them to the BCS Sugar Bowl behind record-setting quarterback Colt Brennan. Although the team lost to Georgia, it brought the school to a prominent stage.
"Having been affiliated with this bowl since its inception, I know that it is one of the best bowl experiences in college football," said coach June Jones, who arrived at SMU in 2008 after nine seasons with Hawaii. "I'm very excited for our players, staff and fans. This is a special experience."
Quarterback Garret Gilbert will be the focus of the Mustangs offense and has passed for 2,720 yards and 14 touchdowns, but has only been completing 53 percent of his passes. He threw for 113 yards and one touchdown in the win over Tulsa and has a season-high four touchdowns in a 72-42 win over Houston in October.
Last season SMU went 8-5 under June Jones in his fourth year as coach and finished third in the Conference USA West division with a 5-3 record. The team played in BBVA Compass Bowl and beat Pittsburgh 28-6.
PREDICTION: Fresno State 37, SMU 21. Fresno State has a ton of talent on offense and matches up well against a Mustangs defense that is allowing nearly 30 points per game. The Bulldogs have lost to quality opponents this season, including then-No. 4 ranked Oregon and then-No. 24 ranked Boise State. SMU will put up a big fight as Jones returns to Hawaii, but this game goes to the Bulldogs.