LAS VEGAS (AP) Houston (9-3, AAC) vs. San Diego State (10-3, MWC), Las Vegas, 3:30 p.m. EST (ABC)
Line: Houston by 4.
Series Record: Houston leads 2-0.
WHAT'S AT STAKE
Houston can win 10 games in consecutive seasons for the first time in school history while also starting the Major Applewhite era on a positive note, as the offensive coordinator and former Texas quarterback was promoted to replace Austin-bound Tom Herman as head coach. A victory by SDSU would tie the school record for wins, first set in 1969 under coach Don Coryell and matched last season by Rocky Long. The winning team is also likely to end the season ranked, something SDSU has not accomplished since the 1977 season.
Houston's run defense vs. SDSU's tailback tandem of Donnel Pumphrey and Rashaad Penny. In their two marquee games, the Cougars held Oklahoma to 2.7 yards per carry and Louisville to 2.5, but the defensive front was decidedly less effective in their three losses and allowed at least 146 yards rushing in those games. If Pumphrey and Penny can get going early, a duo that rushed for 27 touchdowns this season can not only wear down Houston but keep star quarterback Greg Ward Jr. off the field at the same time.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Houston: DL Ed Oliver more than lived up to his lofty billing as a five-star recruit, immediately dissecting the Sooners for two sacks in his collegiate debut. Finishing his freshman season with 19.5 tackles for loss, five sacks and three forced fumbles, Oliver could be a one-man wrecking machine in the AAC for years to come.
SDSU: Pumphrey couldn't get traction with Heisman voters despite rushing for 2,018 yards this season, but could finish his career as the most prolific runner in FBS history. Pumphrey needs 108 yards to break former Wisconsin running back Ron Dayne's record of 6,397 yards rushing. Pumphrey has run for at least that many yards 10 times this season and 30 overall in his outstanding college career.
FACTS & FIGURES
Pumphrey and Penny can become the first teammates in NCAA history to rush for 2,000 and 1,000 yards in the same season. Penny needs just five yards to crack the 1,000-yard mark. . Ward will be the third Houston quarterback to start three bowl games, joining Case Keenum and Kevin Kolb. . San Diego State and Boise State are the only Group of Five teams to play in seven straight bowl games. . Oliver has nine pass breakups, tied with cornerback Howard Wilson for the team lead. . A team from the Mountain West has won the Las Vegas Bowl nine times, but SDSU lost in its only previous appearance in 1998.
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