The 2017 Hawai’i Bowl features teams that surprised everyone in different ways. Houston had to deal with hurricanes in the early part of the season, but ultimately did not live up to expectations. Fresno State on the other hand, was supposed to have another down year, but really turned it around. They made it to the MWC Championship Game, where they lost to Boise. Here are more details on how the two teams stack up:
Fresno State Bulldogs (9-4)
Fresno State made their first bowl game since 2014 this season. They were not supposed to do much under new head coach Jeff Tedford, but they have turned it around. The Bulldogs beat three bowl eligible teams this season in San Diego State, Wyoming and Boise State.
The offense is average, scoring 27.3 points per game. Their running game is also middle of the road and averages 156.8 yards per game. Jordan Mims, Josh Hokit and Ronnie Rivers all do some damage on the ground. Mims has 606 rushing yards and six touchdowns. All three have at least 473 yards and five touchdowns.
Marcus McMaryion, the Oregon State transfer, has taken over the starting quarterback job for the Bulldogs. He has done a great job of protecting the football for Fresno State. McMaryion has 2,384 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and four interceptions. Wide receiver KeeSean Johnson is a star for the Bulldogs and has 69 receptions for 918 receiving yards and eight touchdowns. Three other receivers have over 300 yards receiving.
The defense has been the reason for this quick turnaround. They rank ninth in the country in points allowed with 17.2 allowed. Fresno State ranks 15th against the run and 37th against the pass. Sophomore linebacker Jeffrey Allison leads the team with 113 total tackles.
Houston Cougars (7-4)
Houston had a rough season which started with their first game being cancelled due to a hurricane. They did go on to beat five bowl eligible teams. The Cougars did end up losing to Tulane and Tulsa, the bottom feeders of the AAC West.
The offense was disappointing after being so good in past years. They score 28.4 points per game this season, which ranks 68th. Houston was able to pick up 175.5 yards per game on the ground. Duke Catalon is the best running back on the team, but didn’t get a ton of opportunities. He has 621 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. Mulbah Car, D’Eriq King and Dillon Birden all have over 300 yards rushing for the team.
A big problem for Houston has been finding a quarterback. Kyle Allen started the year at quarterback, then the team moved to Kyle Postma. The last month of the season the Cougars have started D’Eriq King, after he had already played wide receiver. King has 991 yards passing, six passing touchdowns and one interceptions. He has completed nearly 70% of his passes. Two receivers do most of the damage for the Cougars. Steven Dunbar and Linnell Bonner both have over 800 yards receiving.
Defensively, the Cougars have allowed 23 points per game. Houston ranks 47th against the run and 117th against the pass. Defensive lineman Ed Oliver won the Outland trophy for the nation’s best interior lineman and is the best player on Houston by far. The sophomore has 14.5 tackles for loss and 5.5. sacks this season.
D’Eriq King is the key to this game. He is a good dual-threat quarterback for the Cougars, but has been a good passer with a good completion percentage. They did lose to Tulane with King as the starter, but with more time to prep for the bowl game, he should do better. Ed Oliver will make things tough for the Fresno State offense and help the Bulldogs win the game.
Houston Cougars 32 Fresno State 26
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