HAWAII @ UNLV
Location: Las Vegas, Nevada (Sam Boyd Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 4th at 12:00 p.m. (Hawaii Time)
Television: Spectrum Sports PPV on Oahu, nothing for mainlanders as far as I know.
Streaming: WatchStadium app (I think. We've been through this. Do not trust Spectrum, be ready to listen to Bobby Curran)
Radio: ESPN 1420
Head-to-head: Hawaii leads the series 15-11, but it's the Rebels who have won the two most recent games. Three of the last four meetings have been decided by 3 points or less. However, Hawaii's last trip to Vegas was the exception, losing 21-41 to the Rebels.
Summary: Saturday's loss to San Diego State was another bump on a rough road for the 2017 Rainbow Warriors. Hawaii needed the offense to find a rhythm, and slow down Rashaad Penny to the best of their ability. They did neither. They very much did neither. Penny went off for 253 rushing yards after being bottled up in the previous two games, a new career high. Dru Brown averaged 4.8 yards per completion and Saint Juste had very little running room. The Aztecs were just better.
Now attention shifts to the Ninth Island, Las Vegas. In a conference known for inexplicable results on a weekly basis, UNLV took that to the next level by shocking Fresno State in Fresno 26-16. Fresno State was being billed by some as the Mountain West's best team prior to that loss. Needless to say, there is no rest for the weary as Hawaii makes another long trip to the mainland. That said, there is typically a huge contingent of Hawaii fans at the Hawaii-UNLV games at Sam Boyd Stadium.
UNLV opened the season losing to Cam Newton's little brother. The loss to Howard was the biggest point spread upset in college football history. Yikes. They rebounded to win two of their next three, but recently blew huge leads against both Air Force and Utah State to enter the Fresno game 2-5. The Rebels ramped up the weirdness level by winning that game in Fresno.
While the Rebels are inconsistent and hard to predict, their running game has been pretty good all season, ranking 11th nationally. Considering Hawaii's rushing defense ranks 105th nationally, it's more than fair to be concerned about that factor.
Former star recruit and Rebels QB Armani Rodgers missed the Fresno game with an injury, and it's unclear if he will start vs. Hawaii or if Johnny Stanton will get the QB1 nod again. His top wide receiver Devonte Boyd is going to play on Sunday's. The Rainbow Warrior defense is going to have to be at their best to not give up 30+ points in this game.
The Warrior offense took a step back without John Ursua on the field. Not a surprising development. Despite the comparisons to Norm Chow era offenses, Nick Rolovich's offense still ranks 37th nationally in total offense. Good news: the Rebels rank 120th nationally in rushing defense, meaning running back Diocemy Saint Juste could have a huge day. A defensive struggle is unlikely to break out Saturday.
Prediction: I gave the Rainbow Warrior offense too much credit last week, but was right on the overall premise of the prediction. This week’s game comes down to Dru Brown and the offensive line. Saint Juste should have a huge day, but he's been doing all the heavy lifting this season. 2016 mid-season Dru Brown needs to reemerge and victimize defenses with his legs and arm, and of course the offensive line needs to hold up long enough for him to do that. Will they do that? I'm not sure, tough call with two inconsistent teams colliding. I'll give the Rebels the edge at home, but expect a lot of points. Hawaii 31, UNLV 37.