Hawai’i Bowl betting preview: Fresno State vs. Rice

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Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Rice Owls (-2.5, 59.5)

Game to be played at Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawai’i

With a sub-.500 record and a bitter taste in its mouth from two years ago, Fresno State returns to the Hawaii Bowl when it faces Rice in Honolulu. The Bulldogs hope to enjoy their Christmas Eve a bit more than they did when they were demolished by SMU 43-10 in their first Hawaii Bowl appearance. “We are thrilled to be playing in the Hawaii Bowl against Rice,” coach Tim DeRuyter said in a statement after the bowl matchups were announced. “Having been to the Hawaii Bowl just two years ago, our staff and players know that we are in for a fantastic week.”

Both teams are coming off a disappointing performance their last time out, particularly the Owls. Rice enjoyed its best defensive effort of the season in a 31-13 triumph over UTEP before getting obliterated by Louisiana Tech 76-31 in its regular-season finale. The Owls surrendered 677 yards – 408 through the air – and were outgained 269-34 on the ground while allowing five TDs of at least 30 yards.

Fresno State fell behind 28-0 against Boise State in the Mountain West championship game before two late TDs made the final score a bit more respectable. The Bulldogs dominated the Broncos from a statistical standpoint but were doomed by three interceptions by Brian Burrell and a blocked field goal while the game still was close. “This is a gutty team with tremendous resolve,” DeRuyter said after the 28-14 defeat. “We were down big in this game, but our kids didn’t quit. I think we represent the Valley well and we plan on going out and winning a bowl game.”

TV: 8 p.m. ET, ESPN.

LINE HISTORY: Rice opened as 1.5-point underdogs, but have been bet all the way to 2.5-point favorites. The total opened at 59 and has been bet up slightly to 59.5.

INJURY REPORT: Fresno State – RB Kurt Scoby (questionable Wednesday, concussion), RB Dontel James (questionable Wednesday, leg), DL Maurice Poyadue (out indefinitely, suspension), LB Michael Lazarus (out indefinitely, suspension), WR Myles Carr (out indefinitely, suspension), LB Xavier Ulutu (out indefinitely, suspension). Rice – WR Derek Brown (questionable Wednesday, undisclosed), DL Stuart Mouchantaf (questionable Wednesday, knee).

WEATHER REPORT: There are thunderstorms expected in the forecast and a 75 percent chance of rain. There will also be a 12 mile per hour wind gusting across the field from east to west. Temperatures will be in the mid 70’s.

WHAT CAPPERS SAY:

WHAT BOOKS SAY:

CHEERLEADER WAR:

ABOUT FRESNO STATE (6-7, 7-6 ATS, 7-6 O/U): The Bulldogs, the only team to earn a bowl berth with a sub-.500 record this season, are playing in the postseason for the 14th time in 16 years, although they have dropped five straight bowl games dating to the 2007 Humanitarian Bowl. Fresno State won the Mountain West’s Western Division thanks in large part to its two best offensive players. Marteze Waller has rushed for 1,292 yards and 11 touchdowns, although he was held to 23 yards by Boise State, while Josh Harper led the Bulldogs with 86 catches for 1,072 yards.

ABOUT RICE (7-5, 8-4 ATS, 7-5 O/U): The Owls are heading to a bowl game for a third straight season for the first time in program history, although last year’s 44-7 loss to Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl was a one-sided affair. “I know they are very proud to be the first team to earn a third straight bowl berth and they have the longest active bowl streak in Conference USA, but they are not going to be satisfied with a bid,” said coach David Bailiff, whose team is 7-0 when holding its opponent to 23 points or fewer. Junior quarterback Driphus Jackson set career highs against Louisiana Tech for completions (25), attempts (40), yards (337), touchdowns (four) and interceptions (three).

TWEET BEAT:

TRENDS:

* Fresno State is 0-5 ATS in its last five Bowl games.
* Rice is 10-1 ATS in its last 11 games versus a team with a losing record.
* Over is 5-0-1 in Fresno State’s last six non-conference games.
* Under is 5-1 in Rice’s last six neutral site games.

COVERS CONSENSUS:
Bettors are fairly split, with 54 percent of wagers backing Rice at -2.5.

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