Bookending Christmas Day: Bowl Tips

Derek Carr and the Fresno State Bulldogs will look to take home the Hawai'i Bowl on Christmas Eve.

With Christmas Day upon us, things in sport are about to go a little crazy. The NFL has reached crunch time. The NBA is about to host its annual Christmas Day basketball marathon. College hoops is emanating from Hawai’i. And, of course, College Bowl Season is in full flow.

Christmas Day is bookended by a pair of intriguing matchups. First off, SMU and Fresno State meet on Christmas Eve in the Hawai’i Bowl. Then, on Boxing Day, Western Kentucky and Central Michigan contest the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit.

Here’s the skinny on both…


Sheraton Hawai’i Bowl

SMU vs. Fresno State

Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, HI

Monday, 8:00 PM ET

Southern Methodist (6-6, 5-3 CUSA) and Fresno State (9-3, 7-1 MWC) renew a rivalry on Christmas Eve as they play for the Hawai’i Bowl.

During their time together in the WAC, Fresno State and SMU met six straight years between 1999 and 2004. The Mustangs won the opening meeting before the Bulldogs took the remaining five, including a 42-0 shutout in the final meeting (Dec. 2004).

Fresno State will be appearing in the Hawai’i Bowl for the first time, whereas SMU was victorious in this game back in 2009 against Nevada.

Fresno State is a fine mix of offense and defense. The Bulldogs averaged 40.3 points per game (12th) while conceding just 22.3 points (27th), including a No. 4 ranked passing defense – only Nebraska, Michigan, and Florida State gave up less yards through the air.

SMU, on the other hand, were a middle-of-the-pack side on both sides of the football. The Mustangs strength was against the run; the side gave up just 129.1 rushing yards per game (25th). Sadly, a 106th-ranked passing defense didn’t help matters. The Mustangs will be up against the wall in Honolulu.

Odds: Fresno State is favorites, with the spread edging from 12 to 13 points since opening. The over/under has dropped from 62 to 58½.

Take: Fresno State – The only thing going against the Bulldogs is their record in bowl games; the side has lost three straight and four of the last five. The team will get past this and use an offensive and defensive superiority to down the Mustangs. With an 11-1-0 ATS record, take Fresno State to cover the spread as well. Take the total to go under.


Little Caesars Pizza Bowl

WKU vs. Central Michigan

Ford Field, Detroit, MI

Wednesday, 7:30 PM ET

Western Kentucky (7-5, 4-4 Sun Belt) will travel to Detroit, Mich., to take on Central Michigan (6-6, 4-4 MAC) for the first time in the school’s history.

WKU’s only previous bowl experience was an appearance in the 1963 Tangerine Bowl – today known as the Capital One Bowl – in which the side defeated Coast Guard, 27-0. Central Michigan is by no means a bowl veteran, having posted a 2-4 record all-time. The Chippewas appear in the Little Caesars Pizza/Motor City Bowl for the third time, having gone 1-2 previously.

Central Michigan will hope a near-home field advantage can cancel out the Hilltoppers’ superior defense, which was as good against the pass (31st) as it was the run (33rd). Both teams averaged just shy of 30 points per game offensively, with WKU utilizing the run more, and Central Michigan preferring the pass.

The Chippewas enter the game as winners of three straight and four of five. The Hilltoppers won their final game of the season, but dropped four of five before that.

Odds: Western Kentucky opened as seven-point favorites, a number that has fallen to 5½. The over/under has fallen from 57 to 56½.

Take: Central Michigan – Upsets will be few and far between this bowl season, but you’d be wise to go with the underdog here. The Chippewas are as close to home as they’ll get in December, while the Hilltoppers have no momentum thanks to a poor run of form. Take the total to go under in a scrappy game.