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Hawaii vs. Wisconsin game preview: Can the Rainbow Warriors come out of Wisconsin with a Badge(r) of honor?

See what I did there? I hope that didn't ruin everything. Bear with me as we preview the seventh match-up between these two programs. The Bows are down in the series 1-5 but can they improve to 2-5 before Saturday is done?

Brian Blanco/Getty Images

Gameday Info:

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (2-1) @ Wisconsin Badgers (2-1); 2:12 PM HST/7:12 PM CST, Camp Randall Stadium

TV: Big Ten Network

Radio: KKEA ESPN 1420 (Honolulu), KNUI 550AM (Maui), KHLO 850AM (Hilo), KKON 790AM (Kona), KTOH 99.9FM (Kauai), KNWJ 104.7FM  (American Samoa), XM Radio 203 and Sirius Radio 93.

Streaming: (Outside of Hawaii only)

Webcast: ESPN 1420 AM

Spread: +24.5 Hawaii

Gameday Tidbits:

  • #22 Wisconsin is the second ranked team that the Rainbow Warriors will face this season; so far they have a 10-39 record against nationally ranked teams. Currently they are in a rough patch and are in the middle of a 5 game losing streak against ranked opponents.
  • However, UH has a chance improve their record to 3-1 for the first time since 2002. The last time UH beat a ranked team was against No. 19 Nevada, Oct. 16, 2010 in Honolulu.
  • The game Saturday will be the 7th game between Hawaii and Wisconsin; the Badgers leads the series 5-1 so far. Hawaii won the first match-up in 1986, 20-17 but lost the last 5.
  • The last time these two teams met, Wisconsin put the smackdown on Hawaii in Hawaii. The Badgers beat the Bows 51-10. Interesting enough Saturday's game will be the just the 2nd time the two have played in Wisconsin.

Injury Report:

Hawaii: QUESTIONABLE: Vasques Haynes (WR), Diocemy Saint Juste, Quinton Pedroza (WR); OUT: Keelan Ewaliko (WR); OUT FOR SEASON: Brian Hittner (LS), Trayvon Henderson (S)

Ohio State: QUESTIONABLE: Troy Fumagalli (TE); OUT: Beau Benzschawel (T), Corey Clement (RB), Ray Ball (G), Jon Dietzen (G); SUSPENDED: Derrick Tindal (DB)

Team Leaders:

Passing: Max Wittek (Hawaii): 43-86, 541 yards, 5 TD, 4 INT; Joel Stave (Wisconsin): 58-86, 186 yards, 6 TD, 2 INT

Rushing: Paul Harris (Hawaii): 42 carries, 261 yards, 1 TD; Dare Ogunbowale (Wisconsin): 33 carries, 196 yards, 2 D

Receiving: Marcus Kemp (Hawaii): 12 receptions, 238 yards, 2 TD; Alex Erickson (Wisconsin): 14 receptions, 233 yards, 1 TD

Tackles: Marrell Jackson (Hawaii): 24 (15 solo) tackles; Joe Schobert (Wisconsin): 25 (14 solo) tackles

Sacks: Luke Shawley (Hawaii): 1.5 sacks; Joe Schobert (Wisconsin): 4.0 sacks

Interceptions: Julian Gener (Hawaii): 1 interceptions; Leo Musso (Wisconsin): 2 interceptions

Names to Know:

Hawaii: (QB) Max Wittek, (WR) Marcus Kemp, (RB) Paul Harris, (DE) Kennedy Tulimasealii, (LB) Jerrol Garcia-Williams

Wisconsin: (QB) Joel Stave, (RB) Dare Ogunbowale, (WR) Alex Erickson, (LB) Joe Schobert, (FS/UTIL) Tanner McEvoy

For the Hawaii depth chart click here and go to page 16.

For the Wisconsin depth chart click here and go to page 10.

Keys to the Game:

Before we head into this segment I want to stress that I think this team's problems don't stem from the opponents they play but themselves. This team is very talented and it might be safe to say that they are the most talented roster that Norm Chow has had in Honolulu. Much like last week's preview, the highlights in this section are mostly about Hawaii with a sprinkle of Wisconsin on top.

Despite sporting a 2-1 record, the team has quite a few kinks to work out. It will be paramount to get these squared away prior to conference play. With their nice start to the season Hawaii has set themselves up nicely in the standings but must continue to build upon their work each week. The Bows can ill-afford to take steps backward or remain stationary going into conference play. With the other Mountain West teams struggling early, Hawaii could stamp their ticket to a bowl game earlier than any would have predicted. They may also sniff a division title. First things first tomorrow against Wisconsin the team must...

Beat the Slow Start: In the Norm Chow era, Hawaii has been notoriously slow starters. They have been outscored by their opponents by nearly x2 in the first quarter. As we have seen firsthand towards the end of the first half the team picks up their play. In the second quarter they improve their overall play by allowing opponents to outscore them by x1.5. Their history of startling slow continued on into this season despite sporting a new offensive system.

The Hawaii offense has not come along like we all hoped it would. They even started at a snail's pace against UC Davis last week. The offense can't count on another all-time great performance from the defense like they did against Ohio State again. Even if they do get another 'A+++++++' game from the defense, you need to score to win. It’s time to get this engine started and for the first time this season, get it started right away.

Play a Complete Game: Unfortunately for the Bows, starting slowly against powerhouse programs like Wisconsin and Ohio State don't end very well. Though the defense played extremely well against Ohio everything fell apart quickly in the fourth. The offense never got anything going and that eventually forced the defense to work some OT. That isn’t the kind of OT that you get time and a half for either. This team must come out running three facets of the game effectively for the whole game. None of the three phases can take a drive off. They have yet to put together a game where the offense, defense and special teams are doing things well together.

Remain Fluid with the Offensive Game Plan: Wisconsin’s strength thus far is their defense. Their offense is in a transition phase and they remain without their feature back that just underwent surgery to repair a hernia. The Badgers will run base defenses at Hawaii and look to win their individual matchups. The Wisconsin defense is a lot less predicated on exotic looks and misdirection than the fundamental truth of execution and winning battles. They want to isolate players on defense and give them an opportunity to make plays. It will be up to Hawaii to win their battles and if they cannot the coaching staff needs to make adjustments in their play calling and blocking schemes quickly. They can ill-afford to keep trying to put a square block in a circular hole.

The Hawaii Defense Must Stop the Badger Ground Attack: I believe the clear weakness Hawaii has in this matchup is at the line of scrimmage and Joe Rudolph, the Wisconsin OC, has to know this (if he doesn’t don’t show this to him). The Bows are at a huge size and pedigree disadvantage here. Wisconsin has an offensive line that consists of five 6'3"+, 300 pound monsters that can maul the undersized Hawaii defensive line.

However, their offensive line has struggled thus far into the season. They were part of the failed attempt to establish the run against Alabama in week 1; 40 yards on 21 carries. The run game has since improved the following two weeks against Miami of Ohio and Troy. Both are not the caliber of teams that the coaching staff would like to measure success against, I believe that they just need to get things rolling. Talent in the end will win out and Wisconsin sure does have a lot of it. The Badgers ranked in the top 40 the last three years in recruiting, according to ESPN.

The team may have lost lead back and breakout candidate Corey Clement but they still sport a strong crop of talent in the backfield. Dare Ogunbowale leads the team in rushing and sports a healthy yard per carry average at 5.9. He has earned praise from MELVIN FREAKIN GORDON. Not sure how you feel about it but I don’t think that’s good news for the boys. Taiwan Deal also figures into the mix. The talented freshman has 84 yards on 16 carries in 2015.

No matter how you might look at it I think Hawaii will have their hands full with this run game.

Bottom Line:

Do I believe that Wisconsin is 24.5 points better than Hawaii? No.

Would I trade Hawaii for Wisconsin? Maybe. Yes. Just kidding.


Really though, this game will be difficult for Hawaii. They have so many things going against them. They lost their starting safety and may be without quite a few key skill position players. It will take a big game from Hawaii and then also for Wisconsin to have a poor game if the Warriors will pull off the upset.

Despite the leaning tower of negativity above, I think there is reason for optimism. I see the team coming out emotionally charged and ready to take on the #22 team in the nation. In this situation I think that is all you can ask for as a fan.

I'll unfortunately use logic and take Wisconsin to win 34-17.

Make sure to follow us on Twitter for intermittent commentary if I can find a place that is playing the game.

Stats and info courtesy of the University of Hawaii and University of Wisconsin Media Guides.