Previewing the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl: Washington State vs. Fresno State
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This is the preview for the Jimmy Kimmel LA Bowl
Washington State vs. Fresno State (-3, 53.5)
Date: Saturday, Dec. 17, 3:30 p.m. ET
Betting splits: 53% of bets, 93% of handle on Fresno State -3
Matt Youmans: An ankle injury suffered by quarterback Jake Haener threatened to wreck Fresno State’s season in September. Haener went down during a loss at USC on Sept. 17, and the Bulldogs dropped their next two games at Connecticut and Boise State to fall to 1-4. Eight straight wins later, Fresno (9-4) is the Mountain West champion, and Haener helped the Bulldogs get revenge against Boise with a 28-16 win in the conference title game. Despite missing four games, Haener passed for 2,616 yards and 18 touchdowns with three interceptions. He has completed 72.6% of his passes. It’s not a one-man show, although Haener might be worth more to the point spread than any quarterback in college football this season. Jordan Mims has rushed for 1,161 yards and 16 touchdowns, and Jalen Moreno-Cropper has 80 receptions for 1,051 yards and five touchdowns. Fresno scored 37.2 points in the six games Haener has started since returning from injury. The Bulldogs get their third shot against a Pac-12 opponent, also losing 35-32 to Oregon State in early September.
Washington State’s 3-0 start was highlighted by a win at Wisconsin, an accomplishment that lost some luster as the Badgers stumbled through a mediocre season. Still, the Cougars displayed a potentially explosive offense that put up 41 points against Oregon and 52 against Stanford. Cameron Ward passed for 3,094 yards and 23 touchdowns in his first season as the starter after transferring from Incarnate Word. Ward threw for 322 yards in the regular-season finale, a 51-33 loss to Washington. The Cougars (7-5) were lit up by another star quarterback in the rivalry game as Michael Penix Jr. passed for 485 yards and the Huskies totaled 703 yards.
Fresno is a 2-point favorite at most books, and that’s a buy sign on the underdog for those who might believe in the ESPN Analytics Matchup Predictor model, which gives Washington State a 57.2% chance of winning. It seems easier to go all-in with Haener and a Bulldogs defense that allowed a total of 30 points in the last three games. The Mountain West has not been outclassed by the Pac-12 in recent years, and Jimmy Kimmel watched Utah State take down Oregon State 24-13 in last year’s LA Bowl.
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