Fresno State seeks 1st 10-win season in 5 years vs. Houston

Hawaii Bowl: Fresno State (9-4) vs. Houston (7-4), Dec. 24, 8:30 p.m. Eastern (ESPN).

Line: Houston by 10.

Series Record: First meeting.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

The Bulldogs will try to become just the second team in FBS history to go from double-digit losses in one season to double-digit wins. The Cougars are trying for their third bowl victory in four seasons.

KEY MATCHUP

Houston RB Duke Catalon vs. Fresno State’s front seven. Catalon has led the Cougars in rushing in each of the past two seasons. He is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has scored eight touchdowns in 2017, but will be opposed by a Cougars defense that ranks second in the Mountain West in run defense (116.6 yards per game) and ninth nationally in scoring defense (17.2 points per game).

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Houston: DT Ed Oliver racked up the accolades this season, including American Athletic Conference defensive player of year honors. Most notably, he was selected as winner of the Outland Trophy, awarded annually to the nation’s top interior lineman. Oliver has 14 1/2 tackles for loss this season, an average of 1.54 per game, tops in FBS.

Fresno State: WR KeeSean Johnson earned All-Mountain West second team honors after recording team-highs of 69 receptions for 918 yards and eight touchdowns. He has caught at least four passes in 12 of 13 games and at least six passes in six of 13 games.

FACTS & FIGURES

Houston will play in a bowl game for the fifth consecutive season. … The Cougars are 11-13-1 in 25 previous bowl trips. … Houston will face a Mountain West opponent in a bowl game for the second straight year. It lost to San Diego State 34-10 in in the Las Vegas Bowl in Major Applewhite’s first game as head coach. … The Cougars are 19-6 all-time against current Mountain West members. … Fresno State will make its first bowl appearance since losing to Rice 30-6 in the 2014 Hawaii Bowl. … The Bulldogs are 11-15 in their 26 previous bowl appearances. … Fresno State is 10-6 against current teams in the AAC.

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