Ahhhhh, the Christmas Eve Hawaii Bowl, the bowl that Bad Santa delivers to degenerate gamblers every year just hours before Santa comes down the chimney. Nothing better.
Houston (-3, O/U 51) vs. Fresno State, 8:00 PM, ESPN:
What a job by Jeff Tedford. In his first year in Fresno, the Bulldogs went from 1-11 to 9-4, with a Mountain West West division championship. The hire from Fresno was encouraging over the offseason, but nobody in their wildest dreams imagined Fresno having the season they did this year. Aside from the phenomenal record, the advanced stats loved them too, finishing 25th in S&P+.
Tedford’s improvement for Fresno came through defense. The 15th ranked unit will go up against the 34th ranked Houston offense. The overall ranking is impressive for Houston, but the offense has been a disappointment compared to last year. The Cougars have tried three different QBs throughout the season, including former 5-star Texas A&M QB Kyle Allen. The three QBs for Houston have combined to have a success rate (50 percent of necessary yardage on first down, 70 percent on second down, and 100 percent on third and fourth down) of 46.2%, which ranks them 19th in the country. Houston does not have many advantages coming into this game when they have the ball, but Fresno has struggled through the air, allowing an opponent passing success rate of 41.9%, the 80th worst in the country.
Fresno will control the line of scrimmage. Their adjusted line yards (Statistic that attempts to, even to a small extent, separate the ability of a running back from the ability of the offensive line) allowed ranks them 27th in the country, while Houston’s offensive line ranks 88th. Fresno doesn’t allow explosive run plays, ranking 18th in IsoPPP, and stuff rate is top-40 in the country. Fresno holds the advantage on defense and I’m sure Tedford will come up with a way to slow down Houston’s passing attack, which is not very good to begin with.
Stupid ATS Trends You Should NEVER Base A Bet On:
-Fresno State is 1-7 ATS in bowl games since 2004.
-Fresno State is 10-3 ATS in 2017.
-Fresno State is 11-1 ATS in their last 12 games against teams with a winning record
-Fresno State is 0-6 ATS in their last 6 neutral site games.
-Houston is 0-6 ATS in their last 6 games on fieldturf.
-Houston is 12-4 ATS in their last 16 non-conference games
Fresno holds advantages when they have the ball as well. As an offense, they stay efficient, ranking 43rd in success rate, which is good news going up against a Houston defense which ranks 68th in success rate. Fresno ranks 31st in rushing and Houston ranks 34th defending it, so it does appear that is a strength vs. strength battle, but if we dig in deeper you can see a more definitive advantage for Fresno. In terms of success rate, Fresno ranks 28th and Houston ranks 57th. The Bulldogs run the ball the 40th most on standard downs in the country, which makes sense seeing that they rank 27th on standard downs S&P+ and 18th in standard downs success rate. Houston ranks 56th and 73rd in those same metrics.
Houston often times relies on Ed Oliver to be a playmaker to bail their defense out. Oliver, a future top-5 pick, is phenomenal and has 14.5 TFL this season along with 5.5 sacks. This does not scare Fresno, a team that ranks 1st in adjusted sack rate and 40th in adjusted line yards.
All in all, it seems to me the wrong team is favored in this one. Another huge factor is the location of this game. Imagine being a college kid and going to Hawaii on winter break? How awesome would that be! It’d be pretty hard to focus on a football game, don’t ya think? That’s Houston and FSU’s situation right now. The only difference is Fresno State has already played in Hawaii this year, beating the Fighting Rainbows in November. Fresno State actually goes to Hawaii most years, so the trip is less of a vacation for the guys. Houston on the other hand? Nope. This is a once in a lifetime trip for a lot of these guys. This team are also just 14-15 months removed from college football playoff aspirations after beating Oklahoma with Tom Herman in September 2016. The Hawaii bowl doesn’t have the same allure as a NY6 game, which they were in just 2 years ago.
Fresno State, also, hasn’t won a bowl game since 2007. They are 0-6 since then. It’s time to put up a W in postseason play for Fresno and that time is tonight.
Pick: Fresno State +3
Official #JackieGambling Picks:
2017 Season: 60-45-1, 57.1%
Bowl Season: 2-2 (Leans: 2-4)
Fresno State +3