SAN DIEGO STATE vs. HAWAII
Location: Halawa, Hawaii (Aloha Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 28th at 5:15 p.m. (Hawaii Time)
Streaming: WatchESPN app (Spectrum can't stop this!)
Radio: ESPN 1420
Head-to-head: San Diego State leads the series 20-9-2, winning last year's contest in a 55-0 rout. Aztecs have won five straight against the Rainbow Warriors.
Summary: Hawaii had a much-needed bye week in Week 8, with injuries mounting after a crazy road schedule to open the season started to take its toll. Unfortunately, the injury to star wide receiver John Ursua was season-ending, delivering a setback to the offense going forward. Expect to see more of Kalakaua Timoteo III on the field going forward to mitigate the loss of Ursua.
Fortunately for Hawaii, Diocemy Saint Juste is still dominating, and his skills will be needed with San Diego State coming to town. The Aztecs are a tough team to gauge right now. Ranked #19 nationally only two weeks ago, Rocky Long's team got taken down a notch when Boise State came to town and physically destroyed the Aztecs in every phase. Then the Broncos beat the Aztecs a second time the following week when Fresno State came to town and blew out the Aztecs 27-3 in San Diego. This development likely means the Aztecs will shockingly not represent the West Division in the Mountain West Championship game. So much for the West Division being awful, huh?
Rocky Long's 2017 team is in the same mold as all of his other teams: conservative, time-consuming offensive scheme and a strong defense that swarms to the ball in a 3-3-5 formation. Tactically, they're not very complicated on offense, but matching their intensity and strength on defense has proven difficult, hence the Mountain West trophies from 2015 and 2016. That said, Boise State and Fresno State victimized the suddenly struggle-prone Aztec offensive line.
The Broncos and Bulldogs, however, are very good on defense. Defense has admittedly been Hawaii's biggest issue in 2017. The linebacking corps is stacked, but the defensive line and secondary have struggled this fall. Can Hawaii take advantage of the issues the Aztecs have on the offensive line? Can they harass Quarterback Christian Chapman? Star running back Rashaad Penny has been held in check for two straight weeks, can it be done for a third? If the answer is no, can Dru Brown and the offense do enough to win if 30+ points are required? Boise State and Fresno State opted for a clock-killing offensive approach, and it worked. Will Hawaii do the same with star running back Diocemy Saint Juste as their disposal?
The upset is there for the Rainbow Warriors. The chance to begin to changes things in the West Division is there. Can they take advantage of it?
Prediction: Hey, I was pretty close last time! Montel Aaron did play and San Jose State did appear marginally improved with him at quarterback. The Rainbow Warriors will be well-rested and invite an Aztec team that has been humbled in recent weeks. Aspirations of a NY6 bowl disappeared and suddenly even the Mountain West title is now in the rear view mirror. Does that mean San Diego State lunges at Hawaii like a cornered wild animal? Or has the will to win been sapped from the Aztecs? I think some of the exposed issues will resurface for the Aztecs, but Hawaii hasn't shown the ability to stop the run, or anything really, this season. I still think there is a difference in talent between these two teams, and it will show Saturday. We'll see if UH can prove me wrong. On ESPN2 at 5:15 HT, Nick Rolovich and his team will have a chance to get a signature win in conference. I’ll go with San Diego State 34, Hawaii 21.