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Army vs. Hawaii: Three things to look for, Prediction

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Before championship week is Senior Night for the Warriors

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 15 Hawaii at Army Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

ARMY VS. HAWAII

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii (Aloha Stadium)

Date/Time: Saturday, November 30th at 7:30 p.m. (Hawaii Time)

Television: CBS Sports Network

Streaming: TV subscribers should be able to sign in and stream here.

Radio: ESPN Honolulu

Head-to-Head: Despite Oahu’s connection to the military, Hawaii hasn’t played Army as frequently as one would guess. The first meeting in 2003, the two programs have played each other four times, two each home and away. Hawaii leads the series 3-1, but Army won last season’s contest 28-21 at West Point.

Three things to look for:

1. Distractions abound

Let’s start off by stating the obvious: focus will be a challenge this week for the Warriors. Hawaii clinched their first ever West Division championship this past Saturday in the 14-11 win over San Diego State, setting up a date with Boise State on December 7th. Excitement has filled Manoa, Halawa, and everywhere else in Hawaii Warriors football fandom. Obviously attention is elsewhere, but before the game in Boise begins, Hawaii still has another game left.

For most of college football, an out-of-conference game to conclude the regular season might be odd. It’s a fairly common sight for Hawaii. Needless to say, I don’t think the Warriors were anticipating on wrapping up the division before this finale was played. The opponent: the triple option-running Army Black Knights. Also good to remember, Senior Night is a special occasion for UH, and you can bet the seniors will be fired up Saturday night.

Still, one has to wonder how Hawaii will play this game. (Herman Edwards voice) You play to win the game. That said, Army’s brand of football is known to cause injuries to opposition, especially defensive linemen. Will Hawaii sit some key players? Will they play like normal? We’ve seen Hawaii scale things back before, the Central Arkansas game featured plenty of starters sitting out the game. Tough to preview and predict a game where so many distractions and variables are present.

2. Ah, crap here we go again

As I alluded to above, Army football runs the triple option offense. Not to be a Debbie Downer and bring up a painful memory, but Hawaii didn’t exactly defend the option well when Air Force came to town a month back. The stats are predictable: Army ranks 3rd-nationally in rushing offense, ranking behind only Air Force and Navy. The passing offense ranks 129th-nationally, second from dead last. This team doesn’t throw the ball and runs repetitively to slowly move the chains and kill clock (which a Hawaii team that desires to stay healthy won’t mind in that regard.)

Army’s defense started the season slow, but does rank 23rd-nationally in total defense. Some of that is quality defensive play, some of that is their football games lasting only 90 minutes (only a slight exaggeration). Overall, this isn’t an ideal opponent. Fans and media might speculate about the Warriors contemplating dialing is back this week, resting players, etc. but this is Army. Not fully preparing for a team like this can not only result in a loss, but players getting hurt (specifically those in Hawaii’s front seven on defense).

Attention is understandably elsewhere, but look out below! A Black Knight is diving for your knees. Warriors must treat the idea of caution with caution this week.

3. Again, here we go again: quarterback edition

Caution, resting players, playing all-out. Plenty to speculate about this week, but you can bet eyes will be on Hawaii’s quarterbacks pre-game Saturday. Once again, as is now a firm tradition for the 2019 team, Hawaii’s starting quarterback did not finish the San Diego State game the starter. Quarterback Cole McDonald wrestled the initial starting nod away from Chevan Cordeiro with his performance in Las Vegas, but it didn’t last all evening. In the early second half against San Diego State, McDonald was removed from the game in favor of Cordeiro, who immediately led a 96-yard (!!!) scoring drive that ended up being a game-winner. Cordeiro remained the starter through the end of the game.

Head coach Nick Rolovich said this was the plan all along. Maybe that’s true, but fans will be watching to see who starts nonetheless. It has been bizarre. McDonald seems to perform better on the road, Cordeiro at home. Does that continue? Does Cordeiro start vs. Army in that case? Hawaii would rather prepare for Boise State this week, but Army will force Hawaii to make some decisions on Saturday night.

Prediction:

This might be my most difficult prediction of the season. I have no idea how Hawaii will play this. I’m guessing some starters will be rested, similar to how UH approached the Central Arkansas game. That said, it wouldn’t be positive for momentum if Hawaii lost to or even lost big to Army because it half-assed its way through the game. That said, Army might keep some of their cards to themselves too considering their famed clash with Navy is in two weeks. I’m throwing mud at the wall and hoping it sticks. Give me Hawaii 34, Army 28.