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Can the Rainbow Warriors keep up with the Wolverines?

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Find out if the University of Hawaii has a chance against a fierce University of Michigan team.

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University of California v University of Hawaii - College Football Sydney Cup Photo by Mark Nolan/Getty Images

Gameday Info:

Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (0-1) vs Michigan Wolverines (0-0)

September 3, 2016 at 4:00 AM HST, Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, Michigan

TV: ESPN

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.

Web Audio-Cast: ESPN 1420 AM

Web Video-Streaming: WatchESPN

Spread: +41 Hawaii

Gameday Tidbits:

  • This game will be the third time Hawaii and Michigan meet. The Wolverines have won the two previous match-ups outscoring the Rainbow Warriors 78-27.
  • In their first meeting, head coach Jim Harbaugh was the starting quarterback for Michigan. He helped lead them to a 27-10 victory.
  • Both of the previous match-ups were played in Honolulu. Saturday will be the first time that UH has gone to the “Big House”.
  • The Rainbow Warriors are 9-23 against the current Big Ten conference members. Their last two games ended with losses to Ohio State and Wisconsin; they were outscored 76-0.
  • Michigan is currently ranked 7th and 8th in the AP and Coaches polls respectively. UH is 10-40 against ranked teams and are 1-15 on the road against them. The ‘Bows are 3-15 against top squads.

Roster Report:

Hawaii: N/A

Michigan: SUSPENSION: Shelton Johnson (DE)

Note: No word yet on the status of the three players that were suspended for last week’s game.

2016 Team Leaders:

Passing: Ikaika Woolsey (Hawaii): 17-34, 234 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT

Rushing: Diocemy Saint Juste (Hawaii): 14 carries, 118 yards, 1 TD

Receiving: Marcus Kemp (Hawaii): 4 receptions, 73 yards, 1 TD

Tackles: Trayvon Henderson (Hawaii): 12 (6 solo) tackles

Sacks: Makani Kema-Kaleiwahea (Hawaii): 1.0 sacks

Pass Breakup: Jalen Rogers (Hawaii): 1 pass breakup

Interceptions: N/A (Hawaii)

Names to Know:

Hawaii: (QB) Ikaika Woolsey, (RB) Diocemy Saint Juste, (WR) Marcus Kemp, (LB) Jahlani Tavai, (S) Trayvon Henderson

Michigan: (RB) De’Veon Smith, (TE) Jake Butt, (DT) Chris Wormley, (LB/CB/S) Jabrill Peppers, (CB) Jourdan Lewis

For the Hawaii depth chart click here and go to page 9.

Note: No official depth chart for Michigan has been released.

Keys to the Game:

Be like a Ninja on Offense: Michigan is thought to be one of the best defenses in the entire nation. They also just happen to return more production than any other team in the nation. That includes a defensive line and secondary that is among the best in the nation. The Wolverines lost their defensive coordinator so this won’t be the same unit attacking college football.

But, Don Brown is highly regarded and should thrive with the talent that he has been given at Michigan. He used the same strengths the Wolverines have when he was with Boston College. He led the Eagles to be #1 in total defense and #4 in scoring defense. You can bet that this unit won’t miss a beat.

Thus it will be critical for UH to find creative ways to get the ball into the hands of their playmakers. You can bet that they won’t give the Rainbow Warriors much room to breathe. They will need to get creative to get the ball to Diocemy Saint Juste, Marcus Kemp, and company. Deception and misdirection will be key. Hawaii does not have the same caliber of talent to matchup with Michigan mano a mano.

Keep an Eye on Peppers and stay away from Lewis: According to Pro Football Focus, Jabrill Peppers was a top ten “safety” in 2015. Jourdan Lewis was PFF’s #1 rated cornerback in all of college football last year.

Let that sink in for a bit.

I think it is dumb to avoid throwing at half the field due to a cornerback’s coverage ability. Yet, UH would be dumb if they do not identify where these two are on the field at all times. Peppers played all over the place in 2015, taking snaps at all seven coverage positions. The guy also has return duties and even catches passes on offense.

Lewis is simply, a bonafide shutdown cornerback. In 2015 he allowed 33 catches against 90 targets (36.7% catch rate). While successfully breaking up 20 passes and intercepting two passes. For reference, the average catch rate (catches per target) is about 60%.

So yeah. It would be a good idea to keep an eye on these two.

Note: Catch and target data based on information found at ProFootballFocus. Catch rates were derived from information provided by Bill Connelly.

Attack the Quarterback: Michigan does not have a lot of veteran experience at quarterback. They do have certainty at virtually every other position on offense. They return their top three rushers and have one of the best receiving corps in the Big Ten. Not to mention a veteran offensive line, which Fox Sports ranks as the 4th best in the nation. Whoever the quarterback is for the Wolverines on Saturday, they will need to harness the gifts that have been bestowed upon them.

Right now, we are unsure who the starting quarterback is but odds are that it will be Wilton Speight. He is described as a game manager who will be safe for the Michigan offense. While he might be “safe”, one of the few things the Rainbow Warriors will be able to exploit will be his inexperience. Speight will not be able to unlock this offense’s true potential due to his low risk nature. That means the ‘Bows must stay aggressive and force him into long passes where he isn't as confident. It will be nice to see the team get their first turnover of 2016 Saturday.

Bottom Line:

Unlike last week, the Rainbow Warriors do not matchup with the Wolverines at all. Michigan resides on a completely different plane of existence that Hawaii does. According to ESPN, UH has a 0.6% chance to win.

Awesome odds aren’t they?

Don’t get me wrong, Michigan does have some holes in their team. But, their strengths are near elite and matchup with Hawaii’s weaknesses.

UM has an elite defensive line. Pair with one of the best secondaries in the nation that is anchored by one of the best cornerbacks (Lewis) in the league and a superstar utility player (Peppers) who excels at everything the coaching staff asks him to do. Talk about scary.

I do not see this ending pretty at all for the ‘Bows and to be honest, they might get shutout. I think the score will end up being 56-6. This defense is going to kill it this year and Rigoberto Sanchez is the team’s best hope to put some points up.

In the end I hope this defense improves on their effort from last week. Their attack angles and tackling need to improve if they wish to be competitive in the Mountain West Conference.

Stats and info courtesy of the University of Hawaii and the University of Michigan.