WESTERN CAROLINA VS. HAWAII
Location: Halawa, Hawaii (Aloha Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, September 2nd at 6 p.m. (Hawaii Time)
Television: Spectrum Sports, pay-per-view on Oahu. Not televised on the mainland
Streaming: MW app (for mainland viewers)
Radio: ESPN 1420
Head-to-head: First meeting between the two schools.
Things to look for: Hawaii survived a thriller in Amherst this past Saturday, clawing back from a two touchdown, late third quarter deficit to beat UMass 38-35. It cannot be understated how big a boost in morale it is for UH to come away from an unbelievably difficult trip to the east coast with a victory.
Throughout the Norm Chow era, and even in the beginning of the Rolovich era, Hawaii hasn't played many games that could be deemed "easy", if that's the right word. Even last season's FCS opponent UT-Martin forced Hawaii into a close 41-36 victory.
This time, however, Hawaii invites the Western Carolina Catamounts to Aloha Stadium. The Catamounts finished 2016 with a 2-9 overall record, but did play competitively with the Southeastern Conference's South Carolina. That said, if Hawaii were to blow out an opponent in 2017, the Catamounts fit the profile more than most. The Hawaiian floral pattern jerseys the Catamounts will wear are pretty cool, though! Hawaii will also be making a fashion statement with the debut of their brand new green helmets.
Hawaii has won its last 14 games against Football Championship Subdivision opponents by an average of 30 point per game. Coming off the morale boost in Amherst and facing an FCS opponent that doesn't exactly have the reputation of powerhouse North Dakota State, if this game isn't a straightforward victory for the 2017 Rainbow Warriors, no victory will be straightforward. They'll have to contain running back Detrez Newsome, who totaled 1,055 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on 156 carries in 2016. Newsome is also a dynamic returner, but I don't think his influence alone will be enough to worry Hawaii too much in this game.
Prediction: I wasn't too far off last week, predicting Hawaii to win 37-31, with the actual result being 38-35. I think offensively Hawaii will coast in this game, but the defense might allow a few more points than one would hope vs. a team of WCU's caliber. That aside, this should be a breeze for Hawaii as they look ahead to the vaunted AT UCLA, bye, AT Wyoming, Colorado State stretch. I'll go with Hawaii 52, Western Carolina 17.