Seven bowl-eligible teams from 2014. four ten-win teams, and the defending national champions.
That's what awaits Coach Norm Chow and the Rainbow Warriors on their 2015 schedule, in what could be described as a crucial year for all in the Hawaii Football Program. This last season brought some improvement with the Rainbow Warriors finishing 4-9 (3-5 MWC), but then again, anything would be considered improvement after the 1-11 effort in 2013. You could make the argument Hawaii is trending in the right direction after 2014. UH snapped a double-digit conference and road losing streak last season, and of the nine games they lost, six came by 10 points or less.
Big names pop out on the 2015 line-up, but there are several opportunities for UH to finish games and pick up much needed victories. Here's the Rainbow Warriors schedule for 2015:
Colorado in the season opener makes it six straight seasons that Hawaii has opened the year against a Pac-10/12 opponent. In that span, UH has only won one of those games. Who did it come against? The 2011 Colorado Buffaloes. Despite a 2-10 season in 2014, Mike MacIntyre seems to have the Buffs leaning toward the right track to success in Boulder. He has a two-year starting quarterback in Sefo Liufau, and he'll have his number one target Nelson Spruce coming back for 2015.
Then, of course, there's the problem of that big Scarlet and Grey "O" staring at you.
The Rainbow Warriors will be flying all the way out to Columbus in just the second week of the season, and awaiting them will be the inaugural champions of the College Football Playoff. Urban Meyer can play whatever quarterback he damn pleases, and honestly, all three may see the field in this game.
If playing the Big Ten/National Champions wasn't difficult enough, Hawaii travels to Madison to play the B1G runner-ups, Wisconsin. The Badgers lose Melvin Gordon to the NFL, along with several members of the defensive front seven, but Wisconsin can still contend in the Big Ten West.
Yes, Hawaii draws Boise State fresh off their run to the Fiesta Bowl, in Boise no less. UH avoids match-ups with Colorado State and Utah State, while drawing New Mexico and Air Force for their cross-divisional foes. New Mexico has been struggling to find footing in the Mountain West, with seven straight losing seasons under their belt, presenting opportunity for a road win if you're Hawaii. On the opposite end of that spectrum, Air Force is fresh of a 10-win season and bowl win, but must deal with the loss of starting QB Kale Pearson. Playing the Falcons in Honolulu definitely presents an interesting mid-season match-up.
The final three games could prove critical to a potential bowl appearance, with the straight home games at Aloha Stadium, including two against in-division opponents. The opening game against Fresno State will be difficult for Hawaii to manage, but the final two games against San Jose State and Louisiana-Monroe are opportunities to finish the season on a high note.
Overall, the non-conference side of the schedule presents very few chances for Hawaii to come out on top, but expect the Rainbow Warriors' success to come deep in the Mountain West play.
Toughest stretch: @Wisconsin, @Boise State, vs. San Diego State
Easiest stretch: @New Mexico, @Nevada, vs. Air Force, @UNLV
Guarantee wins: vs. UC Davis, @New Mexico, Lousiana-Monroe
Guarantee losses: @Ohio State, @Wisconsin, @Boise State
50/50 games: vs. Colorado, @Nevada, vs. Air Force, vs. San Jose State
Projected record: 5-8