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Hawaii vs. BYU: Hawaii Bowl preview and picks against the spread

Hawaii (9-5) vs. BYU (7-5)

Location: Honolulu | When: Dec. 24 (8 p.m.) | TV: ESPN | Line: BYU -2

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

Hawaii: Hawaii opened the year by going 2-1 against Pac-12 teams, beating Arizona and Oregon State and losing to Washington. From there, Hawaii had a 2-3 start in Mountain West play before winning four straight down the stretch to win the West Division. However, the Rainbow Warriors fell 31-10 to Boise State in the MWC title game. 

BYU: BYU started the year 2-4 with a few bad losses, though it did manage to beat Tennessee on the road and USC at home. The Cougars then won five straight games, including an upset over then-undefeated Boise State, to sew up a bowl trip and help head coach Kalani Sitake land a contract extension. 

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

Like usual, this is the only game on the schedule on Christmas Eve. So if you’ve had enough family time or you’re too full from dinner, the Hawaii Bowl will give you the excuse to sneak over to the TV and watch some football. It should be a good game, too. Hawaii averages 469 yards of offense per game while BYU hasn’t allowed more than 24 points in a game since October. 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Hawaii WR Cedric Byrd II: Byrd, a junior college transfer, has been a big-time performer since arriving at Hawaii ahead of the 2018 season. Byrd caught 79 passes for 970 yards and nine touchdowns in 2018. In 2019, he took his play to another level, catching 95 passes for 1,068 yards and 10 TDs. He earned first-team All-Mountain West honors for his efforts. 

BYU QB Zach Wilson: Wilson was inserted into the starting lineup midway through his freshman season, giving the Cougars offense some life. That carried over into 2019 with Wilson, who is known for his ability to avoid pressure and extend plays, leading wins over Tennessee and USC until he was sidelined with a hand injury. He returned late in the year and enters the bowl game with 2,108 yards and 11 touchdowns passing.

Hawaii wide receiver Cedric Byrd II caught 95 passes for 1,068 yards and 10 TDs this season. (AP Photo/Tom R. Smedes)

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT

BYU TE Matt Bushman: Although Bushman has yet to declare for the draft, he says he’ll wait until after this game to make a final decision — and at age 24, he’s on the older side for an NFL prospect, so we suspect he’s leaning toward entering. Bushman led the Cougars in receiving yards (597), has reliable hands and can threaten the seam. He’s a straight-line receiver who lacks wiggle and never will be a plus blocker. Bushman — whose father-in-law is former Eagles TE Chad Lewis — reminds us a bit of a longer-framed Jacob Hollister and could be a top-125 pick if he comes out.

- Eric Edholm

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

Hawaii: Nick Rolovich has done a great job elevating the Hawaii program and is now playing in a bowl game for the third time in his four-year tenure. With a win here, Hawaii can reach the 10-win mark for the first time since 2010. Hawaii, unsurprisingly, is no stranger to the Hawaii Bowl either. The Rainbow Warriors are 4-4 all-time in the game. 

BYU: BYU can make it three bowl wins in four seasons under Kalani Sitake. It’s been tough for the Cougars to replicate the success they had under Bronco Mendenhall before he left Provo for Virginia, but getting to eight wins with another bowl win — especially on the heels of a five-game winning streak late in the year — would have the program feeling good entering the offseason and 2020. 

PICKS

Nick Bromberg: Hawaii +2

Sam Cooper: BYU -2

Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast

Pat Forde: Hawaii +2

Pete Thamel: Hawaii +2

Dan Wetzel: Hawaii +2

Sean Sullivan: Hawaii +2

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