SMU (6-6) vs. Fresno State (9-3), 6 p.m. MDT (ESPN)
Line: Fresno State by 12.
Series record: Fresno State leads 5-1.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Fresno State has won its last five games by averaging 47.2 points. The Bulldogs will be going after their first 10-win season since 2001. SMU became bowl eligible by beating Conference USA champion Tulsa in its final game. After a 25-year absence brought on by the NCAA death penalty, the Mustangs are playing in a school-record fourth straight bowl game.
Fresno State quarterback Derek Carr threw for 3,742 yards and 36 TDs against only five interceptions and was No. 9 in pass efficiency among FBS schools. He will be going against an SMU defense that ranked No. 103 in pass defense and gave up at least 300 yards passing in half of its games. Mustangs running back Zach Line, second only to Eric Dickerson in career yards rushing at SMU, has gone over 1,000 yards for the third straight year. Fresno State's defense gives up an average of 171.9 yards a game.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
SMU: Quarterback Garrett Gilbert began his college career by playing in the BCS championship for Texas when Colt McCoy was injured after five plays against Alabama. He ends his career in the Hawaii Bowl, after he threw for 2,720 yards this year with 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
Fresno State: Strong safety Phillip Thomas led the Bulldogs in interceptions (8) and tackles for loss (12), tied for the team lead in forced fumbles (4) and was second on the team in sacks (4).
FACTS & FIGURES
SMU coach June Jones was the coach at Hawaii from 1999-2007. He has won four straight times in the Hawaii Bowl, including 2009 when SMU ended its 25-year drought in the bowls and defeated Nevada. Jones' last loss in Aloha Stadium was Dec. 2, 2006, against Oregon State. ... The teams played one common opponent this year. Fresno State missed two extra points in losing 27-26 at Tulsa. SMU beat Tulsa 35-27 at home in its final game to become bowl eligible. ... Tim DeRuyter, in his first year as coach at Fresno State, was the interim head coach for Texas A&M last year in the Meineke Car Care Bowl after the Aggies fired Mike Sherman. Texas A&M beat Northwestern 33-22. ... Fresno State became the first team in Mountain West Conference history to sweep the major awards for offensive player (QB Derek Carr), defensive player (SS Phillip Thomas), freshman (WR Davante Adams) and coach (DeRuyter). ... SMU is moving to the Big East next year.
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