Dec. 24, 8 p.m., Honolulu (ESPN)
Fresno State take by Pac-12 blogger Kevin Gemmell: In one season, head coach Tim DeRuyter has reversed the fortunes of the Bulldogs, taking over a 4-9 squad and transforming it into a 9-3 unit. The backfield of quarterback Derek Carr and running back Robbie Rouse has been potent. Carr is completing 68.1 percent of his throws with 36 touchdowns to just five interceptions. He's been especially sharp on third downs, completing 66 percent of his throws with nine touchdowns and one interception. Rouse has crossed the 1,000-yard rushing mark for the third straight season (1,468) and has accounted for 14 touchdowns (12 on the ground).
But, perhaps DeRuyter's biggest influence has been on the defensive side of the ball, where the Bulldogs were 107th in scoring defense last season before his arrival, yielding 35.15 points per game. This season Fresno State ranks 27th, allowing 22.25 points per game.
SMU take by RecruitingNation's David Helman: It hasn’t been bad month for SMU coach June Jones.
The Mustangs ended Jones' fifth season in Dallas by winning four of their final six games, capped off by an upset of Conference USA West Division champion Tulsa to earn bowl eligibility. The reward is a trip back to Jones' old stomping grounds at Hawaii, where he led the Warriors to a 76-41 record from 1999-2007, not to mention an undefeated regular season in 2007.
Fans will no doubt recognize SMU triggerman Garrett Gilbert from his previous stint at Texas. Gilbert hasn't enjoyed the same success typically associated with Jones-coached quarterbacks. The junior completed just 53.1 percent of his passes on the year for 2,720 yards, 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
While Jones' Hawaii teams often used running backs as an afterthought, the Mustangs lean heavily on Zach Line. The senior finished 2012 with 1,207 yards -- just 17 behind his total from 2011 -- and 12 touchdowns. Line's 46 career rushing touchdowns puts him just one behind Eric Dickerson as the program's all-time leader, and he sits 336 yards away from Dickerson's career rushing total of 4,450 -- good enough for No. 2 in SMU history.