HAWAII VS. NEW MEXICO
Location: Albuquerque, New Mexico (Dreamstyle Stadium)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 26th at 10:00 a.m. (Hawaii Time)
Television: Spectrum Sports (PPV in the islands only, so no TV channel for mainlanders)
Streaming: Facebook for mainland viewers. The Hawaii-Oregon State feed reached 24,000+ viewers at one point. It was a little smoother against Central Arkansas.
Radio: ESPN Honolulu
Head-to-Head: Warriors-Lobos is a series of streaks. Hawaii leads the overall series 14-10. From 1983-1991, Hawaii beat the Lobos nine-consecutive times. However, from 1993-present the Lobos have beaten the Warriors seven-consecutive times. The most recent contest was in Honolulu, where the Lobos won 28-21.
Three things to look for:
1. Offensive explosion: if not now, when?
Hawaii opened as an 11-point road favorite against New Mexico. For those that follow Warriors football, that might seem pretty crazy. Rarely is Hawaii a favorite of that size on the road, and especially coming off a blowout home loss. So why are the Warriors a double-digit road favorite?
Well, New Mexico ranks absolute dead last in pass defense. They’re conceding 348 passing yards per game, which is a full 32 passing yards more than the second-to-dead-last team in pass defense. The Lobos have not just been bad against the pass. They’ve been especially bad. Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book is very good, but him aside it’s not like the Lobos secondary is facing top quarterbacks weekly, and certainly not quarterbacks in the form that Hawaii’s Cole McDonald is in.
Despite the struggles of the last two weeks, McDonald and the offense aren’t carrying most of the blame. Still 3rd nationally in passing offense, it’s not difficult to see the Warriors offense exploding this weekend.
2. Will the real Warrior defense please stand up?
Remember a few weeks back when I posed the question of whether Hawaii’s defense had turned a corner? Hawaii had just traveled to Reno, Nevada, where the Warriors have historically struggled, and dominated the Wolf Pack offense by holding them to 3 points at Mackay Stadium. That came a week after holding a better-than-you-think Central Arkansas passing attack to 16 points.
Well, the Warriors followed up their impressive showings by coughing up 59 points to Boise State’s backup quarterback, who looked abysmal against Brigham Young, and 56 points to Air Force’s third-string quarterback. That is not what you want. After some early season optimism, the defense of the last two weeks has resembled the unit that was obliterated midseason of 2018.
This weekend the Warriors face the 26th ranked rushing offense in the New Mexico Lobos. Running backs Ahmari Davis and Bryson Carroll are both over 400 yards on the season. Hawaii, shocking to nobody, ranks 111th in rushing defense after conceding whatever ungodly number of rushing yards Air Force’s offense accumulated. The Lobos might be 2-5, but if Hawaii’s early season defense doesn’t reemerge, this could be a crazy shoot out.
3. Stop the 2018 vibes now
Football season has begun, and the Warriors are out to shock the nation. An unexpected victory in Week 0 catches the nation’s attention. Over the course of the following weeks, the Warriors continued to impress save for a loss on the road to a strong opponent. Entering midseason with only one loss, the Warriors travel to the Mountain Time Zone with a ton of confidence, but exit with a surprisingly underwhelming loss. Hawaii compounds that disappointment by losing the following weekend at home. Suddenly a team that was receiving votes in the Top 25 polls is sitting at three losses.
Oh, you thought I was talking about this season? I’m talking about 2018, where the Warriors started 6-1 but were blown out at Brigham Young, and then slumped against Nevada at Aloha Stadium. Hawaii would finish the season 8-6 despite a 6-1 start.
As the 2019 season unfolds, things are becoming eerily similar to Hawaii’s 2018 campaign. Now, compared to the Chow era, finishing slightly above .500 isn’t a serious indictment by any means, but clearly #Phase2 would like to feature a double-digit win season. It’s in play, but it starts in Albuquerque. The devastating run-and-shoot offense combined with an improved defensive unit of the early season must reemerge in this game if the Warriors want confidence heading in the stretch of the season that includes Fresno State, San Diego State, etc. A big win over the Lobos would go a long way to preventing another second-half slump.
Folks, I really suck at this part. I’ve missed badly the last three games. I weigh the stats and trends and make a prediction, but these Renegade Rainbows are a weekly adventure. I’d be really surprised if Hawaii lost this game. I wouldn’t be surprised if they made it harder on themselves than necessary, but Hawaii is the better team. Expect Hawaii’s defense to continue to struggle, but McDonald to win Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week. Give me Hawaii 45, New Mexico 35.