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.

Deciphering What’s Left of the Season: the Non-AQ Edition

Colby Cameron's Louisiana Tech Bulldogs are just one of the teams looking to take a non-AQ conference title.

Following on from Wednesday’s look at the AQ conferences and how each is likely to pan out this season, CasinoReview takes you to the non-AQ conferences in search of finding those teams looking to take home a division title, or even conference title, this season.

 

CONFERENCE USA

East Division

Central Florida (8-2, 6-0 CUSA) – The Knights need to win one of their two remaining games this season to be awarded the East Division crown. Thanks to a head-to-head win over East Carolina, UCF can still win the title even if it loses both games, providing the Pirates lose two also.

East Carolina (6-4, 5-1 CUSA) – First the Pirates need to win out to have any chance of taking the division and then they need help from Tulsa and UAB, who would both need to win against UCF for East Carolina to be awarded the title.

West Division

Tulsa (8-2, 6-0 CUSA) – The Golden Hurricane can afford to lose this weekend against UCF, but only just. This race will go down to the final game of the season – which has Tulsa traveling to SMU – if the Mustangs win at Rice this weekend. If the Mustangs lose this weekend, Tulsa takes the West.

SMU (5-5, 4-2 CUSA) – The Mustangs need to defeat Rice this weekend in Houston to be in with a shot at the division title. A victory sets up a winner-takes-it-all clash with Tulsa next weekend.

 

MID-ATLANTIC CONFERENCE (MAC)

Eastern Division

Kent State (8-2, 6-0 MAC) – Ohio’s loss to Ball State on Wednesday means the MAC’s Eastern Division will be decided between Kent State and Bowling Green, who conveniently play each other on Saturday. A Kent State win gives the Golden Flashes the division title. A loss means not only would Kent State need to beat Ohio next week, but Bowling Green would also have to lose to Buffalo, in order for the Golden Flashes to head to the championship game in Detroit.

Bowling Green (7-3, 5-1 MAC) – The Falcons must defeat Kent State this weekend or it’s game over. A win would give Bowling Green a huge advantage going into the last week of play. The Falcons would merely need to match Kent State’s result to win the division.

Western Division

Northern Illinois (10-1, 7-0 MAC) secured a spot in the championship game with a 31-24 win over Toledo (8-3, 5-2 MAC) on Wednesday night. With one game to go, neither Toledo nor Ball State (8-3, 5-2 MAC) can catch the Huskies.

 

MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE (MWC)

The MWC does not use a tiebreaker to determine the conference champion should two or more teams finish with the same record. Those in a tied position at the top of the table would be considered co-champions.

San Diego State (8-3, 6-1 MWC) – The Aztecs can win outright with a victory over Wyoming (Nov. 24) so long as Fresno State loses to Air Force and Boise State loses one of its last two. In a best case scenario, a loss would likely generate a co-champion scenario.

Fresno State (8-3, 6-1 MWC) – Fresno State can win outright with a victory over Air Force (Nov. 24) and losses for San Diego State and Boise State. The latter would need to lose both of its final games. A loss leaves the Bulldogs vulnerable to a co-champion scenario or losing out on the conference title altogether.

Boise State (8-2, 5-1 MWC) – The Broncos can win the division outright with two wins accompanied by losses for San Diego State and Fresno State. One loss could generate a potential three-way tie with both San Diego State and Fresno State.

 

SUN BELT

Arkansas State (7-3, 5-1 Sun Belt) – In all likelihood, the Sun Belt championship will come down to Arkansas State’s game against Middle Tennessee (Dec. 1). The winner of that game is likely to be crowned champion. Before that, the Red Wolves need to beat Troy.

Middle Tennessee (6-3, 4-1 Sun Belt) – If the Blue Raiders can navigate their way past South Alabama and Troy, they’ll likely set-up a conference championship game with Arkansas State. A loss to either of those sides could prove very costly.

Louisiana-Lafayette (5-4, 3-2 Sun Belt) – The Ragin’ Cajuns’ only hope of winning the conference is to win out and finish tied at the top of the table with Middle Tennessee at 6-2. The two teams do not play this season so further tiebreakers may play out in Lafayette’s favor. It’s unlikely though.

Louisiana-Monroe (6-4, 4-2 Sun Belt) – Although not mathematically eliminated, ULM faces an uphill struggle. That struggle would include winning out in the division and then hoping the other contenders continue to lose leaving ULM and Middle Tennessee tied at the top of the conference with a 6-2 record. ULM holds the tie-breaker in that scenario, and that scenario only.

 

WESTERN ATHLETIC CONFERENCE (WAC)

Utah State (8-2, 4-0 WAC) – A win for the Aggies over the Bulldogs this weekend is enough to take the WAC title thanks to the fact that Utah State has already beaten San Jose State. A loss to Louisiana Tech would end all hopes of a division title.

Louisiana Tech (9-1, 4-0 WAC) – The Bulldogs play both their remaining rivals to close out the season. A win over both ensures an undefeated season in the conference and a WAC championship. A win over Utah State this weekend, and a Utah State win next weekend is also enough to take home the championship. A loss to both eliminates the Bulldogs.

San Jose State (8-2, 4-1 WAC) – Spartan hopes are pinned firmly on Louisiana Tech defeating Utah State this weekend. If the Aggies are victorious, San Jose State cannot win the division. A Bulldogs win however would set up a showdown with the Spartans next week. San Jose State would need to win that game and hope the winless Idaho can defeat Utah State. Don’t count on it.

 

So there you have it (almost). There’s still an awful lot up for grabs on the non-AQ side of the BCS. Some champions may be decided as early as Saturday, while others might not be crowned until December 1. One thing’s for sure though; the excitement really starts here.