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Roundtable: Editors predict final score for Hawai’i Bowl

A strong defensive effort from both teams will make the Hawai’i Bowl a close affair, but a win for the Cougars is far from guaranteed. | File photo/The Cougar

History will be made on Christmas Eve as the Cougars face the Fresno State Bulldogs in the Hawai’i Bowl. Given this will be the first meeting between the two schools, one team will get to start singing “Mele Kalikimaka” with a 1-0 all time record against its opponent come game’s end.

Before the office deserted for winter break, The Cougar’s sports staff made its predictions for the final game of the 2017 football season.

Assistant sports editor Andres Chio

Fresno State is the clear favorite in this matchup. In conference play, the Bulldogs won most of their games comfortably minus a hiccup against UNLV and a close loss in the championship game against Boise State. Regardless, after starting the year 1-2, the Bulldogs won eight of their last 10 to earn their Hawai’i Bowl berth.

On the other hand, the Cougars struggled to find consistency this season and dropped games to the two of the worst teams in the conference: Tulsa and Tulane.

Sophomore quarterback D’Eriq King eventually reinvigorated the offense, but it did not put up huge numbers. Since King took over, 44.5 percent of yardage and 10-of-15 touchdowns came on the ground for Houston.

Fresno State has one of the best-run defenses in the Mountain West Conference, so it could be difficult for Houston finish drives off in the red zone. The Fresno, California-based team had some penalties earlier, but it mostly calmed down with the errors.

Houston will win if the defense holds Fresno to less than 20 points. The Bulldogs are 1-for-5 this season when scoring less than 20, and the offense comes through.

The Cougar defense will keep Fresno from running away with the game, but not enough to win. Fresno’s defense will keep the Cougars out of the end zone, but not in scoring range, so they’ll score a few field goals to keep it close. Fresno should win 27-16.

Staff writer Tristan Shannon

This game should be a fun one to watch. The Cougars should not overlook Fresno State. Besides an off game against UNLV, the Bulldogs’ only losses have come against ranked opponents (Alabama, Washington, Boise State).

The Bulldogs also have one of the best-scoring defenses in the nation. They allow a little over 17 points per game, ranked ninth best in the country. Houston is not too far behind, allowing only 23 points per game.

Their offenses are close statistically as well. The Cougars average 28.5 points per game while the Bulldogs are averaging 26.7.

In a game such as this one where the teams are so evenly matched, elements like red zone scoring play a huge factor. Houston has shown its ability to score and defend the red zone this season — in both categories the Cougars are better than Fresno State.

For those reasons the Cougars will prevail over the Bulldogs by a slim margin of 24-20. In a season full of ups and downs, a bowl game victory would go a long way in creating momentum for the 2018 season.

Sports editor Peter Scamardo

The numbers show this is going to be a close game. It is clear that the Cougars are built to succeed in 2018. With D’Eriq King at quarterback, head coach Major Applewhite finally has someone who can be an offensive threat for his team.

That being said, the Cougars will come to play this Sunday. The players have had over one month to recuperate from their season-ending win over Navy and, more importantly, more than a week free from balancing commitments to classes, giving the team ample time to work out whatever problems still remained in the system.

But simply put, this team has not been consistent. Fresno State has. The Bulldogs may be coming off a loss against Boise State, but it was a close loss at just 17-14. The team has two separate four game winning streaks; this season, it is a team built to win.

The Cougars will keep it close, but Fresno State should prevail 24-17.

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