HAWAII @ WYOMING
Location: Laramie, Wyoming
Date/Time: Saturday, September 22nd at 4:15 p.m. (Hawaii Time)
Streaming: WatchESPN app
Radio: ESPN 1420
Head-to-head: Wyoming leads the series 13-9, Hawaii won 38-28 the most recent matchup in 2014.
Things to look for: The Paniolo Trophy will be traveling with Hawaii to Laramie this weekend. Yes, Hawaii and Wyoming have a trophy for this "rivalry". Hawaii won the trophy in 2014 under Norm Chow (for real!) and the two teams haven't played since. Much has changed on both sides. Hawaii is under new leadership with Nick Rolovich, and Wyoming won the Mountain Division in 2016 and had a mountain of hype following them into the 2017 season.
Success hasn't come early for the Wyoming Cowboys. They didn't score a touchdown against Iowa in a 3-24 loss, won 27-0 in an underwhelming home opener vs. Gardner-Webb, and were totally blasted by Oregon 13-49 in a game many Cowboys fans thought would propel their NY6 aspirations.
I got two paragraphs into this section without mentioning Josh Allen's name. The superstar prospect is getting #1 overall pick hype from draft scouts. Even despite his struggles, scouts brush off criticism of Allen and pour the blame onto his supporting cast. Losing the likes of Brian Hill, Chase Roullier, Tanner Gentry, and Jacob Hollister (all of which are on NFL rosters) has been a challenge, and those who thought the Pokes would reload or that Allen's talent would mask any other shortcomings have been wrong to this point.
How does this set up the Hawaii-Wyoming game? This will be a test of character for the Pokes. Hawaii is coming off of a bye week, and proved last season that despite their historical woes on the road, they're capable of winning on the front range (beating Air Force in Colorado Springs in 2016). Coming off of a disappointing beat down, Allen and company will need to bounce back with enthusiasm. They cannot waltz passed Hawaii on a mediocre effort.
For me, the big matchup is Hawaii's offensive line vs. Wyoming's front seven. If UH can give Dru Brown time to navigate the pocket, he can exploit Wyoming's Tampa 2 defense. That said, while Hawaii's defense has some solid individual talent in Jahlani Tavai and Travon Henderson, overall the defense hasn't been great. They'll need to step up their game to slow down Josh Allen enough to win.
Prediction: I labeled this game as a potential trap for Wyoming in the off-season. Coming off of a huge home game, first Pac-12 opponent to travel to Laramie in over 20 years, there is room for a let down the following week. Add in Hawaii being fresh off the bye, plenty prepared for Wyoming, and this has the makings for a great game. I think Hawaii gives Wyoming a real scare, but Josh Allen makes a big play late to survive said scare. Hawaii 27, Wyoming 30.