Hawaii Bowl brings SMU full circle

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Southern Methodist last played in a bowl game in 1984, and three years later was sanctioned with the “Death Penalty”. The Mustangs return to the same venue in Hawaii 25 years later, with much of the credit going to former Hawaii coach June Jones. While some of those on islands despise Jones for taking the money and leaving Hawaii, the facts were he did everything he could to stay and just wanted to be adequately compensated, since the U of H and BCS go together like Hawaiian weather and snow.

SMU (7-5, 6-5-1 ATS) has seen Jones turn around a dormant program in just two years after having produced one winning season (1997) since feeling the wrath of the NCAA. Jones has manufactured his run-and-shoot offense in Dallas, that ranks 28th in passing nationally and has to be tugging on his lei thinking about 118th ranked Nevada pass defense to throw against. The Ponies are 5-1 ATS against teams with winning records.

SMU will face a Nevada (8-4, 7-5 ATS) team that was 8-1 SU and 7-2 ATS down the stretch, scoring 49.6 points per game after starting 0-3. The Wolf Pack are in a bowl game for a fifth straight year and are the first NCAA team to have three 1,000 rushers.

In retrospect, it’s unfathomable to consider Nevada was actually shutout by Notre Dame 35-0 in both teams season opener. How could a team with that much firepower on offense only gain 307 yards against what turned out to be porous Irish defense? It just proves things are not always as they first appear.

Nevertheless, two-thirds of the 1,000 yard club won’t be available, with Luke Lippincott out with injury and Vai Tuau an academic casualty. That leaves quarterback Colin Kaepernick to be the main focus of attention for SMU and he has delivered. The Wolf Pack is 11-3 ATS when they gain 500 or more total yards over the last two seasons.

Bookmaker.com has Nevada as 12.5-point favorite with total of 72.5. The Wolf Pack is 3-6 all-time in bowl games, covering the spread just once in six lined appearances. They were .500 against others playing in the postseason with 3-1 ATS mark. Nevada hasn’t won a bowl since outlasting Central Florida 49-48 in Hawaii in 2005.

With the ghosts of Eric Dickerson and Craig James lurking in the background (the old “Pony Express”), SMU earns first bowl bid in a quarter century, which ironically is the same bowl. The Mustangs are 4-6-1 and 2-2 ATS all-time. SMU is 4-9-1 ATS in last 14 non-conference clashes, but is 6-1 ATS as an underdog this season.

The total has intriguing dichotomy, with Nevada 10-2 OVER having won two out of their last three games and SMU 16-5 UNDER as an underdog of 10.5 to 21 points. Before making a decision either way, consider this Foxsheets system- Play UNDER in a bowl game if the non-conference participants are from second tier division 1-A conferences. (34-10 L10Y)

It’s never made much sense why the Hawaii Bowl starts at 8:00 Eastern on Christmas Eve, since the games are typically four hour scoring marathons. Favorites and underdogs have alternated spread victories for the last five years, and based on that pattern, it would be the underdog’s turn to cover in 2009. This has been a very high scoring bowl series, with the winning team having surpassed the 35-point mark all but once since ’95 while averaging 44.9 point per game.

3DW Line – Nevada by 15

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