Cover Machine Fresno State the Play vs. Houston in Hawaii Bowl

hawaii bowl

Willie Bee

Tuesday, December 12, 2017 2:05 PM GMT

Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017 2:05 PM GMT

A couple of division or conference runners-up in their respective leagues get a trip to Hawaii for the holidays, and we have a free college football pick for the clash between Fresno State and Houston.

Free NCAAF Pick: Fresno State +2½Best Line Offered: Heritage

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Fresno State Bulldogs vs. Houston Cougars

It’s Christmas Eve and the excitement of jolly ol’ St. Nick’s impending arrival has you too amped up to go to sleep. "It’s a Wonderful Life" is showing on multiple networks and you’re beginning to think there’s nothing of any interest on the boob tube.

Then you flip to ESPN and see gorgeous sunshine and an island backdrop for the Hawaii Bowl. It’s the inaugural gridiron meeting between the Fresno State Bulldogs and Houston Cougars, and you’ve found the game just in time for the 8:30 PM (ET) kickoff at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu. You ask yourself, “How would Santa bet this game?” that finds BetOnline offering Houston -2½ and 50 for the total.

Playing Bulldogs & ‘Under’ A Winning Combo in ‘17

Maybe a trip to Hawaii will help boost Fresno State’s morale after the Bulldogs ended the season on a bit of a downer despite exceeding expectations in Jeff Tedford’s first year at the helm. They captured the West Division title of the Mountain West with a fine 7-1 record and appeared headed towards an upset of Boise State in the title tilt with a late lead in Boise as 9½-point underdogs. The Broncos rallied, however, for the 17-14 decision to deny Fresno State’s first league title since 2013.

That the Bulldogs covered the NCAA football odds in the MWC Championship was nothing new for 2017 when they made friends with college football bettors by going 10-2-1 against the spread. Defense was the squad’s forte, ranking 16th in the country in fewest yards allowed and ninth in scoring. That led to eight of their last nine games finishing ‘under’ the total just as their 2014 appearance in this bowl against Rice ended up.

Pass Defense A Weak Link In UH Defense

Houston is also going bowling with a 1st-year head coach after Major Applewhite was tabbed to take over for Tom Herman. And like Fresno State, the Cougars treated ‘under’ bettors to a profitable campaign with nine of their 11 contests falling short of the totals. Houston held Navy to one of its lowest rushing totals of the season in a 24-14 win to close out the schedule, and defensive tackle Ed Oliver was a key member of the unit in that matchup and all others. The sophomore is someone Tedford and FSU offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer will have to game plan around if the Bulldogs are going to move the pigskin.

While Houston was solid against the run, the Cougars were not very good defending the pass. While the Bulldogs aren’t a great passing offense, I’m assuming they can neutralize Oliver and the rest of Houston’s pass rush enough to take the points for my free college football pick.

NCAAF Season Record: 41-48-6 (-8.30)

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