Hawaii Bowl Betting Odds - Free ATS Pick
The Fresno State Bulldogs and the Rice Owls with battle it out on Christmas Eve in this year's Hawaii Bowl at Aloha Stadium. Game time is set for 8 p.m. (ET) and this contest will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
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Fresno State was just 5-3 in the Mountain West this season, but that was good enough to face Boise State in the conference title game out of the West Division. The Bulldogs came up short in a 28-14 loss as heavy 22.5-point underdogs to finish 6-7 straight-up on the year. They did cover in four of their final six contests to go 7-6 against the spread and the total stayed UNDER in six of their last nine games.
Balance was the key to the Bulldogs' offense this season with Brian Burrell throwing the ball for 2,576 yards and Marteze Waller racking-up another 1,292 yards on the ground. While the offense averaged a respectable 28.1 points a game, the main reason for a sub-.500 record was a shaky defensive effort that was ranked 101st in the nation in points allowed (32.6). This unit did play better down the stretch after allowing an average of 46.3 points in its first six losses of the season.
Rice also went 5-3 in its conference schedule; however it finished on a down note with losses to Marshall and Louisiana Tech both SU and ATS in two of its final three games. The Owls are 7-5 SU on the year with an 8-4 record ATS, but they did fail to cover in three of four games as underdogs on the closing line. The total stayed UNDER in three of their final four games.
The overall numbers matchup rather closely between these two teams with Rice averaging 28.7 points a game on offense, while allowing an average of 30.3 points to its opponents. The Thundering Herd tagged the Owls for 41 points in a 27-point loss and Louisiana Tech rang-up a basketball score with 76 points verse their 31. This has to be a concern heading into this contest in what would have to be considered a slight step-up in class.
The Bulldogs are 1-4 ATS in their last five nonconference games and 0-5 ATS in their last five bowl games. The total has gone OVER in five of their last six games outside the conference.
The Owls have covered ATS in their last four games against a team from the Mountain West. They are 10-3 ATS in their last 13 games outside the conference and the total has stayed UNDER in five of their last six neutral-site games.
These two teams have not played one another since 2004, but going back a few years in this series, Fresno State was 6-0 SU with a 3-3 record ATS. The total went OVER in the last three meetings.
Fresno State vs. Rice Point Spread Pick
When it comes to picking bowl games between two teams that do not have any recent history between one another, I will usually defer to the level of competition each team faced in its particular conference. The Mountain West would have the clear edge over C-USA when you look at the teams from top to bottom and that is good enough for me to go with the Bulldogs in this one given such a small spread.