Viewer's Guide: Hawaii Bowl

It'll be dark across mainland America on Christmas Eve, but football fans will get to watch a football game played in daylight -- live. That's the magic of the Hawaii Bowl, which features Fresno State and Rice at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. Here are three facets of this game to keep an eye out for:

1. Will a defense please show up?

Fresno State began the season leaking serious oil on the defensive end, allowing at least 52 points in each of its first three games. The Bulldogs have since performed better defensively, but it certainly has not been a banner year on that side of the ball. Meanwhile, Rice's defense is fresh off an absolutely embarrassing performance. The Owls gave up 76 points, 677 yards and 9.5 yards per play to Louisiana Tech in their season finale. The team that actually plays competent defense will win this game. If neither does, we'll see a ton of points.

2. A chance to wash away bad bowl tastes

Neither of these teams had much postseason fun last year. Fresno State, at one point 11-0 and eyeing a BCS bowl berth, had to settle for the Las Vegas Bowl, where it was walloped 45-20 by USC. Meanwhile, Rice was bludgeoned 44-7 by Mississippi State in the Liberty Bowl. So this game is a real chance for atonement for both teams, especially considering the fact that the Bulldogs are making a return to the Hawaii Bowl two years after they were spanked 43-10 by SMU. The Owls are also 0-6 all-time against their former WAC foe, so we'll see which run of losing is broken tonight.

3. Watch the quarterbacks run

Both signal-callers in this game have the ability to make plays with their legs, and that'll be something to watch if the defenses do indeed struggle. Fresno State's Brian Burrell has racked up 560 yards on the ground this season, while Rice's Driphus Jackson has run for 360. He needs just 116 yards to become only the third player in program history to amass 3,000 yards of total offense in a single season. As usual, much will rest on the play of the two men under center.