Middle Tennessee State faces San Diego State in Hawaii Bowl

Hawaii Bowl: Middle Tennessee State (7-5) vs. San Diego State (7-5), Dec. 24, 8 p.m. EST (ESPN)

FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK COLLEGE LINE: San Diego State by 6½.

Series record: First meeting.

WHAT’S AT STAKE?

Middle Tennessee State is seeking its first eight-win season since 2018 and a second bowl victory in as many years following last year’s 31-24 win over Toledo in the Bahamas Bowl. The Blue Raiders have won four of their last five games, including three straight heading into Saturday’s Hawaii Bowl. San Diego State also is trying for its second straight postseason triumph after its 38-24 win over UTSA in the Frisco Bowl capped off an 11-2 season a year ago. The Aztecs had won three consecutive games and five of their previous six prior to a 13-3 loss to Air Force on Nov. 26.

KEY MATCHUP

Middle Tennessee State’s run defense against San Diego State’s array of ball carriers. The Aztecs have seven different players who have registered at least 39 carries and 150 yards rushing this season, led by senior Jordan Byrd (91 carries for 389 yards, three TDs, 4.3 yards per rush). San Diego State averages 150.8 yards rushing per game, while Middle Tennessee State has held opponents to 121.9 per contest, which ranks 26th nationally.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Middle Tennessee State: DE Jordan Ferguson has a team-high 16 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, while his 63 total tackles ranks third. The 6-foot-2, 271-pound redshirt senior and first team All-C-USA selection needs one more sack to become the school’s career leader.

San Diego State: DL Jonah Tavai posted 57 total tackles (30 solo), including 12½ for loss, nine sacks, a forced fumble and 13 quarterback hurries to earn second-team AP All-American honors. The 6-foot, 290-pound senior and first-team All-Mountain West pick has amassed 22½ sacks and 144 total tackles in his career.

FACTS & FIGURES

San Diego State is playing in its 12th bowl game since 2010. It is seeking a third consecutive bowl win after topping Central Michigan in the 2019 New Mexico Bowl and UTSA in the Frisco Bowl a year ago. SDSU withdrew from bowl consideration in 2020. … The Aztecs are 10-9 all-time in bowl games and 1-0 in the Hawaii Bowl; they beat Cincinnati 42-7 in the 2015 edition of the game. … Middle Tennessee State played in the 2016 Hawaii Bowl and lost to Hawaii 52-35. … The Blue Raiders are 5-8 all-time in bowl games. … MTSU has blocked six kicks and four punts this season, which is tied for third and fourth in FBS, respectively.

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