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2012 Hawaii Bowl: Getting to know Fresno State

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SMU's opponent on Christmas Eve is a formidable team with a few familiar names.

Scott Olmos-US PRESSWIRE

Who They Are: Fresno State is a 9-3 team from the Mountain West Conference. They're a balanced squad ranked No. 12 in the country in points scored and No. 27 in points allowed. In a world where conference affiliation didn't mean everything, the Bulldogs would be playing in a far better bowl, and against a far better opponent, than a 6-6 SMU team.

Who They Played: As became customary under former coach Pat Hill, they played a murderous non-conference schedule that included a 45-24 loss to Oregon in Autzen and a narrow 27-26 loss at Tulsa. However, they did absolutely demolish a bottom-feeding Pac-12 team in Colorado to the tune of 69-14. Their only conference loss came at Boise State, who has tormented them for almost a decade in the WAC and now the Mountain West.

Who To Watch: MWC Offensive Player of the Year Derek Carr. If his name sounds familiar, it's because he's the younger brother of former Texans No. 1 overall pick, and fellow Fresno State QB, David Carr. He's an athletic 6'3 210 QB with a strong arm who put up these stats in 2012: 3,742 yards passing, 36 TD's on 5 INT's, 68% completion percentage. As a junior, Carr was reportedly getting some NFL nibbles but he's decided to come back for his senior season. After all, it's not like his family needs the money.

You Might Have Heard Of: First-year head coach Tim DeRuyter. He was Texas A&M's defensive coordinator the last two seasons and he was able to survive the wreckage of the Mike Sherman era to get himself a head coaching gig. If Fresno State can keep up this level of play next year, he might start appearing on coaching lists for some big-time jobs.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.