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Rainbow Warrior Perspective - San Jose State vs. Hawaii: Three things to look for, Prediction

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 29 Hawaii at San Jose State Photo by Douglas Stringer/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

SAN JOSE ST. VS. HAWAII

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii (Aloha Stadium)

Date/Time: Saturday, November 9th at 6:00 p.m. (Hawaii Time)

Television: Spectrum Sports (PPV in the islands only, so no TV channel for mainlanders)

Streaming: Facebook for mainland viewers. Link should be available at Hawaii and San Jose State athletics websites.

Radio: ESPN Honolulu

Head-to-Head: Hawaii leads the series 21-19-1 (another tie!). The Warriors are currently on a three-game winning streak against the Spartans, winning last season’s thriller 44-41. The two programs have met every season since 1996, except for a brief one season hiatus in 2012. Hawaii has mostly owned the series this millennium, but it hasn’t been totally lopsided on the scoreboard.

Three things to look for:

1. These are not your typical Spartans

Let’s not kid ourselves: San Jose State football, and athletics in general, are often the piñata of the Mountain West. Heck, they’ve historically been the piñata in general. An observer that doesn’t follow the details closely might see “vs. San Jose State” and expect a routine win. That is not the case with the 2019 San Jose State Spartans.

The Spartans are 4-5 on the season, so definitely not on the verge of the New Year’s 6, but considering that in the two seasons prior to 2019 the Spartans won three games total, head coach Brent Brennan’s group has been a pleasant surprise. During that stretch, San Jose State has beaten Arkansas in Razorback country, Army all the way at West Point, and given Mountain West contenders San Diego State and Boise State all they could handle, only losing those two contests by 10 points. Needless to say, the Spartans are not in their typical pushover form.

Beware of quarterback Josh Love. The Spartans aren’t particularly good at running the football, but Love and his wide receivers put on a show. Wide receivers Tre Walker and Bailey Gaither are the real deal, both above 600 receiving yards on the season. Love has 2,793 passing yards, 19 touchdown passes and only 4 interceptions. He has a legitimate chance to win Mountain West offensive player of the year.

Even more baffling is the fact that the Spartans rank 7th nationally in sacks allowed. Madness when you consider how frequently the Spartans throw the football. Love has a lightning quick release and his offensive line is very good. Hawaii’s defense has been a mess for weeks, and frankly on paper, I’m not sure why that will stop this week.

2. Who is starting at quarterback?

There’s no getting around it: Hawaii’s defense is getting blasted. After holding Nevada to 3 points in Reno and spurring optimism that defensive coordinator Corey Batoon’s unit had turned a corner, Hawaii has since averaged conceding 46 points per game. That is the reason Hawaii is losing games.

...but this is Hawaii, folks. This is Run-and-Shoot City, USA. The focus is always on the offense, and more specifically the quarterback.

Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald is a statistical giant this season. Sitting at 2,796 passing yards, 25 touchdown passes, 12 interceptions, and even 353 rushing yards, it’s clear McDonald is producing. Despite this, McDonald was once again benched in favor of Chevan Cordeiro. Down 14 in the fourth quarter to Fresno State, McDonald missed a wide open Nick Mardner. McDonald was yanked and not seen again on the field as Cordeiro led another furious comeback.

Head coach Nick Rolovich was not clear on who would start against San Jose State in his postgame presser, but this dynamic appears to be an ongoing trend with the Warriors. It’s unusual to see a starter pulled this frequently, but when McDonald is struggling (and even that is debatable), Cordeiro has emerged as something of a closer. Was Saturday night a tipping point and we see Cordeiro start against the Spartans? Or is Hawaii just weird?

3. The time for urgency is now

Hawaii lost to Fresno State at Aloha Stadium...again. Having also lost to Boise State and Air Force, this all but officially eliminates the Warriors from West Division title contention. Sitting at 5-4, a San Jose State team with firepower coming to town, a road game at UNLV (Warriors haven’t won in Vegas since 2006), maybe the best team in the Mountain West in San Diego State, and Army all still on the schedule, suddenly the dreaming of a conference championship game has shifted to realizing even bowl eligibility isn’t a complete lock for the 2019 Warriors.

This isn’t unusual territory. The 2018 Warriors also started the season very strong, but tailed off in the middle of the season, although did recover in the final weeks of the season. A likely date with old rival Brigham Young awaits in the Hawaii Bowl if the Warriors can reach 7 regular seasons wins, but the time to snap into action is now. San Jose State is no pushover. Even UNLV next week cannot be overlooked. There are no gimmes for this Warriors team. Urgency must be on display against San Jose State, or a season that featured the Warriors receiving Top 25 votes in the AP and coaches polls will turn sour.

Prediction:

Last week, I was right in theory. I guessed Hawaii-Fresno State would come down to the wire, and it did. Once again, the Hawaii offense could not do enough to bail out a struggling defense. It’s odd that in a season where young, promising defensive talent like Kai Kaneshiro and Darius Muasau have emerged, it’s the veterans that haven’t been able to carry this defense. Run, pass, it does not matter. Opposing offenses are smoking the Hawaii defense. I’m not sure how that changes this week. San Jose State quarterback Josh Love is the best quarterback in the conference. He is completely in sync with his receivers and his offensive line is outstanding. I think Hawaii is going to beat UNLV and Army to achieve bowl eligibility in the end, but I think Saturday will be another setback that has nervousness flaring going in the final weeks of the season. Give me San Jose State 41, Hawaii 35.