HONOLULU (AP) Fresno State says it has accepted an invitation to play SMU in the Hawaii Bowl in Honolulu on Christmas Eve.

Bowl and Fresno State athletics officials confirmed Sunday that the Bulldogs (9-3) will play in the Dec. 24 game against the Mustangs (6-6).

Fresno State coach Tim DeRuyter said his team is in for a challenge in competing against SMU. Fresno State finished in a three-way tie for first place in the Mountain West.

``Having been to an earlier Hawaii Bowl as an assistant coach, I know the players and coaches are in for a fantastic week,'' DeRuyter said.

The Bulldogs finished the regular season among the top 20 teams statistically on offense and defense. Safety Phillip Thomas, an All-American, has a nation-leading eight interceptions.

SMU accepted its invitation last week. SMU Athletics Director Rick Hart said the game is a tremendous reward for the school's players. SMU finished second in Conference USA's West Division.

``Having been affiliated with this bowl since its inception, I know that it is one of the best bowl experiences in college football,'' SMU coach June Jones said when his team accepted the invite. ``I'm very excited for our players, staff and fans. This is a special experience.''

Jones coached Hawaii for nine years, leaving for SMU in 2008.

Kickoff is scheduled for about 8 p.m. EST (3 p.m. in Hawaii). The game will be televised on ESPN.


Oskar Garcia can be reached on Twitter athttp://twitter.com/oskargarcia .