Hawaii Bowl Forecast
By Phil Steele
Let me first take a second to wish each and every one of you a very safe and happy holiday season! I’d like to thank all of you for visiting PhilSteele.com, purchasing the magazine, providing me with excellent feedback on Facebook and twitter, and everything else that you do. I really do appreciate all of it. With that being said – don’t forget there’s a bowl game tonight! Former WAC foes SMU and Fresno St face off in paradise. Each day there is a bowl I will have a breakdown of the game here on my blog. But if you can’t wait for the actual writeup, make sure you download my FREE Bowl Guide which gives you a glimpse of each game being played this bowl season. The Bowl Guide includes Stat Leaders, Past Meetings, Bowl Records, Game By Game Stats and Previous Bowl Game Results. Everything you need for this post season at your fingertips! Here is the forecast for today’s bowl. Make sure you check back on Wednesday for the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl Forecast and download that Bowl Guide today!
8:00 pm • EPSN • Aloha Stadium • Honolulu, HI
The Mustangs head back to post season paradise for the 3rd time in their history where they are 2-0 including a huge 45-10 upset over Nevada in which they held current 49ers starting QB Kaepernick to 200 total yards. HC Jones is 6-3 in bowls leading SMU to its school record 4th straight (2-1) and obviously he is well acquainted with the facilities as he served as Hawaii’s HC from ‘99-’07. The Bulldogs are appearing in their 12th bowl game in the last 14 years (none in ‘06 & ‘11) and 7 of those games were decided by one score or less (5 ppg avg) with FSU going 2-6 in those. Fresno is looking to shake 3 straight bowl losses after losing 40-17 to NI in the ‘10 Humanitarian.
SMU won 4 of its final 6 games to make it to the post season. This has been a different kind of team for passing guru Jones as the 237 pass ypg are his fewest as a college HC. QB Gilbert, who missed spring ball while graduating from Texas, won the QB job in August but struggled with accuracy issues having the rare distinction of leading 2 different conference’s in int during his career. Jones smartly dialed down the number of passes and instead relied on RB Line who became the 1st Pony back to have 3 seasons with 1,200 rush yards as he led the conference in rushing for the 3rd straight season. Line is also 1 td shy of Eric Dickerson’s career td record (46). After having two 1,000 yard receivers last year the Ponies didn’t have one crack 750 as Sr Darius Johnson led the way. The OL (6’3” 296) had some issues as they allowed 29 sacks (5.9%). SMU finished with my #80 off and #59 D. The Ponies run a 3-4 which has excelled at forcing TO’s leading the CUSA with 33 (28 at home), and stopping the run (129, 3.9). The DL measures 6’5” 280 led by giant (6’8” 275) Estonian DE Hunt. The LB’s are the top 3 tacklers with MLB Reed leading the team in tfl while WLB Davis had a huge game in the bowl clinching win over CUSA West champ Tulsa as he blk’d a P, had a FF and an int. SMU has my #20 pass eff D (271, 55%, 26-19) with CB Acker finishing 3rd in the conference in pd. The ST’s (#70) were mediocre across the board with K Hover hitting 16-26 including 2-8 from 40+ with 3 blk’s. The team’s net P was 35.8 while they allowed 9.5 on PR’s and 21.0 on KR’s. Acker (14.0) was the top PR while Thompson (25.7) led in KR’s.
Tim DeRuyter took over for Pat Hill who departed after 9 losses in 2011. DeRuyter proclaimed that FSU would win the conference championship during his intro speech, and he came through, as the Bulldogs captured a share of the MW Title (1st since ‘99 WAC). He installed a new no huddle, up tempo spread offense and the Bulldogs improved from #52 scoring off last year to #13 this year. FSU has my #20 offense avg 489 ypg and 40 ppg. MW OPOY QB Carr had three 400+ yard games and finished the season #7 in the FBS in pass eff while avg 321 ypg with a 36-5 ratio. The Bulldogs have the ability to score at anytime with explosive playmakers like RB Rouse (#13 FBS with 122 ypg), WR Burse and rFr Adams who was named the MW Frosh POY. The OL avg 6’4” 305 with 2 Sr’s paving the way for 166 ypg (4.4) while allowing 22 sacks (4.6%). FSU switched to a 3-4 D and has my #42 ranking allowing 336 ypg and 22 ppg with 35 sacks. The DL avg 6’2” 291 and allowed 172 ypg rush (4.0). The defense battled injuries but DE Jennings and LB Okpalaugo stepped up to combine for 21.5 tfl. The star of the defense is MW DPOY Thomas who has an FBS leading 8 int and right behind him is Smith with 6 picks. FSU has my #23 pass eff D (#8 FBS) allowing 163 ypg (52%) with a 14-20 ratio (6 IR td’s). The Bulldogs have my #25 ST’s lead by P Shapiro’s 42.4 avg and PK Breshears’ 11-14 FG’s (L/43). FSU had one of the best PR last year in Devon Wylie but Evans has been a capable replacement and had a huge 78 yard return for a td vs Wyoming.
FSU has made huge strides under 1st year HC DeRuyter and has the talent edges here. However, SMU HC Jones and the Ponies wanted to be here and got the bid very similar to their 2009 appearance. That year SMU faced a superior Nevada team and won 45-10. While this should be an exciting Christmas Eve matchup and Jones obviously knows the surroundings, tough to go against one of the most improved teams in the country this year as Fresno goes into the offseason on a high note.
PHIL’S FORECAST: FRESNO ST 37 SMU 27
Phil Steele is a college football analyst who has been publishing his annual College Football Preview since 1995. His magazine is regarded as one of the best in the business.