Hawai'i Bowl 2014: Fresno State vs. Rice TV Info, Spread, Injury Updates, Time

Sean ODonnellContributor IIIDecember 23, 2014

Fresno State's Brian Burrell tosses a pass against Hawaii in the second half of an NCAA college football game in Fresno, Calif., Saturday, Nov. 29, 2014. (AP Photo/Gary Kazanjian)
Gary Kazanjian/Associated Press

The Hawai'i Bowl features two teams looking to end their 2014 campaigns on a high note after disappointing finishes to the regular season.

Fittingly enough, Fresno State earned bowl eligibility with a victory over Hawaii, but the Bulldogs went on to lose their regular-season finale 28-14 to Boise State. Rice had a tough start to the season, dropping its first three games, but the Owls rebounded nicely, winning seven more games before ending the season with a devastating 76-31 loss to Louisiana Tech.

These teams are very evenly matched heading into the Hawai'i Bowl, as Fresno State averages 28.1 points for and 32.6 points against per game, while Rice averages 28.7 points for and 30.3 points against per contest. So, which team has the upper hand in this postseason showdown? Let's break it down.

 

Big-Play Receivers

Gary Kazanjian/Associated Press

Both Rice and Fresno State will need to get their top playmakers involved early and often in an effort to gain the upper hand in this contest. It just so happens that the biggest offensive threat for both of these teams happens to be a wide receiver.

Senior Josh Harper has been fantastic for the Bulldogs this season, racking up 86 receptions for 1,072 yards and seven touchdowns. He's coming off a stellar showing against Boise State in which he reeled in 10 catches for 131 yards, averaging 13.1 yards per reception. Expect quarterback Brian Burrell to look Harper's way often against a Rice defense that ranks 89th in the nation against the pass.

Gregory Payan/Associated Press

Senior Jordan Taylor has been Rice's go-to guy on the offensive side of the ball this year. He missed the team's first three games and recorded just one reception in its fourth contest, but he's been on fire since. Over the Owls' final eight contests this season, he accumulated 48 receptions for 780 yards and six touchdowns with a long of 88 yards.

Like Harper, Taylor is coming off a huge performance, hauling in 10 passes for 136 yards and a touchdown against Louisiana Tech. Fresno State hasn't been overly stout against the pass this season, ranking 93rd in the nation and allowing 29 touchdowns through the air, so we should see quarterback Driphus Jackson find his favorite target on a regular basis.

The receiver who has the biggest impact on the game will likely reside on the winning team.

 

Limiting Turnovers

SOUTH BEND, IN - AUGUST 30:  Driphus Jackson #6 of the Rice Owls looks to pass against the Notre Dame Fighting Irish at Notre Dame Stadium on August 30, 2014 in South Bend, Indiana. Notre Dame defeated Rice 48-17.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

There's one big reason for both of these teams' losses to end the regular season—they both committed an excessive amount of turnovers. In Rice's loss to Louisiana Tech, the Owls turned the ball over four times, which included three Jackson interceptions. In Fresno State's loss to Boise State, the Bulldogs racked up three giveaways—all Burrell interceptions.

FRESNO, CA - NOVEMBER 23:  Brian Burrell #2 of the Fresno State Bulldogs drops back to pass against the New Mexico Lobos during the fourth quarter at Bulldog Stadium on November 23, 2013 in Fresno, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Both of these quarterbacks must find a way to protect the football and keep from throwing ill-advised passes in the Hawai'i Bowl. This has been an unfortunate trend for both signal-callers this season, and keeping that trend alive could prove to be the undoing for one of these squads.

Jackson may have thrown for 337 yards and four touchdowns against Louisiana Tech, but his three interceptions are a cause for concern. He's only thrown a total of eight picks this year, but five of those have come within the team's last four games. Louisiana Tech does rank first in the nation in takeaways, giving Jackson a bit of leeway here, but if his confidence was shaken, he could continue to struggle.

Burrell has thrown at least one interception in all but one game this season. He's thrown five over his last two contests, including three in the season finale against Boise State. The Broncos have been a ball-hawking team this year, ranking ninth in the nation in takeaways, but ending the season with a touchdown-to-interception ratio of 2-to-5 isn't comforting.

Neither of these teams have been takeaway artists this season, as Fresno State has accumulated 20 takeaways and Rice has 18, but one small mistake by one of these signal-callers could have dire consequences.

 

When: Wednesday, December 24

Where: Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii

Time: 8 p.m. ET

Channel: ESPN

Live Stream: WatchESPN

Betting Info (via Odds Shark):

  • Over/Under: 59.5
  • Spread: Rice -2.5

 

Team Injury Reports

Fresno State Injury Report
DatePosPlayerInjuryStatus
12/20/14DEMaurice PoyadueSuspensionexpected to miss Wednesday vs. Rice
12/20/14LBMichael LazarusSuspensionexpected to miss Wednesday vs. Rice
12/20/14WRMyles CarrSuspensionexpected to miss Wednesday vs. Rice
12/20/14LBXavier UlutuSuspensionexpected to miss Wednesday vs. Rice
10/16/14DLTyler PuccioKneeout for season
09/17/14RBMalique MicenheimerShoulderout for season
09/14/14RBDontel JamesLegout indefinitely
08/21/14RBKurt ScobyConcussionout indefinitely
DonBest
Rice Injury Report
DatePosPlayerInjuryStatus
12/07/14WRDerek BrownUndisclosedout indefinitely
11/15/14DTChristian CovingtonKneeout for season
10/24/14WRZach WrightLegout indefinitely
10/21/14TEConnor CellaAnkleout for season
09/26/14DTCody HenesseeShoulderout indefinitely
08/28/14DLStuart MouchantafKneeout for season
DonBest

Injury reports via DonBest.

 

Prediction

Oct 11, 2014; West Point, NY, USA; Rice Owls running back Jowan Davis (3) rushes the ball against the Army Black Knights at Michie Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports
USA TODAY Sports

The 2014 Hawai'i Bowl just may come down to which offense can maintain a higher level of efficiency. Neither defense has exactly been stout this year, so there will be plenty of yards and points up for grabs. The team that comes away with fewer unforced errors and sustains methodical drives will emerge victorious.

Judging by the consistency of both squads throughout the regular season, Rice gets the upper hand here. Fresno State is tied for 100th in the nation in giveaways, accumulating 25 turnovers this season with 19 of those being interceptions. The Owls have been extremely efficient in this department, tied for fifth in the nation with just 12 turnovers on the year.

Both of these teams match up very well across the board on both sides of the ball, but mistakes often lead to losses in high-stakes games, and that's why Rice will come away with the win.

Prediction: Rice 38, Fresno State 31

 

All team rankings and statistics courtesy of NCAA.com and current as of December 22.