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Hawaii Football: Warriors’ 2019 Schedule Analysis

Can the Warriors finish above .500 in back-to-back seasons for the first time in more than a decade?

NCAA Football: Hawaii at Colorado State Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Petty or not, a good old-fashioned, “I told you so” always feels good. That’s where Hawaii football has been since last season, where despite a rough showing in the Hawaii Bowl, the fact that the Warriors were in the Hawaii Bowl at all was an accomplishment in contrast to the doomsday day projections placed on them by neutrals heading into the 2018 season.

That said, as the old cliche goes, “Last season was last season.” Hawaii enjoyed a second rebirth under Nick Rolovich, and while expectations will rise for the Warriors in 2019, they’ll also be motivated to not replicate the flop of 2017 that followed a surprise positive 2016 season. Can the 2019 Hawaii Warriors do something the program hasn’t done since 2006-2007: finish above .500 in back-to-back seasons? Let’s look at the schedule.

Hawaii Warriors 2019 Schedule

Byes: Week 1, Week 6

Aug. 24 - Arizona

This game has extra meaning for several reasons. The last time Arizona traveled to Hawaii was in 1998, when Dick Tomey’s Wildcats beat Hawaii 27-6. Tomey passed away recently, both teams will surely honor Coach Tomey in this fitting opener. As for the on-field consequences, bottom line: Hawaii has momentum and positivity as a program right now. They’ll want to prove they’re bound for a strong season with a win over an Arizona team that had mixed results in 2018. Stopping Khalil Tate will be paramount.

Sept. 7 - Oregon State

After one week off, Hawaii will take on another Pac-12 program at Aloha Stadium. Hawaii and Oregon State have a bizarre recent history. Nick Rolovich wasn’t particularly thrilled with some of the recruiting tactics the Beavers have employed. The Beavers went 2-10 in 2018, and have lost to Mountain West foes on the road in back-to-back seasons. The Beavers offense will be its strength, but the defense figures to remain poor. This is non-negotiable: if Hawaii wants to match or eclipse their 2018 win total, they must win this game.

Sept. 14 - @Washington

The trip through 1/4th of the Pac-12 (Hawaii should show up in their standings) concludes in Seattle, where the Warriors take on Chris Petersen’s Huskies. This is probably the contest with the longest odds for the Warriors. Washington recruits on another level and are near-unbeatable at home under Petersen.

Sept. 21 - Central Arkansas

The third home game of the season comes against the annual FCS opponent, this edition being the Central Arkansas Purple Bears. This is not the first meeting between these two programs, with the Warriors edging the Bears 25-20 in 2009 when Greg Alexander found Rodney Bradley in the endzone to avoid the upset. It’ll be surprising if this version of the game is as close. Or, close at all.

Sept. 28 - @Nevada*

The kryptonite of the Rainbow Warriors: the road trip to Reno. Hawaii has only won onc at Nevada, that win coming in Hawaii’s Sugar Bowl year when Dan Kelly hit the game-winning field goal to preserve the team’s undefeated record. The Wolf Pack lose quarterback Ty Gangi, which helps, but are likely to still be a tough test. The Arizona, Oregon State, and Nevada games are pivotal for Hawaii to achieve their goals.

Oct. 12 - @Boise State*

Speaking of brutal road trips. Since Colt Brennan and the Warriors beat Boise State in 2007 by the score of 39-27 at Aloha Stadium, the closest contest between the two programs was the following year when the Broncos won 27-7. Yes, that was the closest. The second closest closest margin was 34 points, in the most recent game between the two programs in 2016. Needless to say, dream big, but the Warriors would do well just to be competitive vs. the likely Mountain Division favorite, who figure to have the conference’s strongest defense.

Oct. 19 - Air Force*

The battle for the Kuter Trophy. Yes, these two programs play for a trophy. Air Force’s last trip to Hawaii in 2015 resulted in the beatdown that led to Norm Chow being fired in the middle of the season. However, Rolovich would avenge the Warriors the following year by shocking the Falcons in Colorado Springs. The 2019 game figures to be an offensive spectacle between two teams with great offenses, but statistically-deficient defenses.

Oct. 26 - @New Mexico*

Road wins are never a given for the Hawaii program that faces travel challenges others don’t, but contract details are likely the only reason Bob Davie is still coaching the Lobos. Lacking in talent, and even losing the few strong points like Marcus Hayes to transfer, Davie has resorted to a junior college heavy roster. The Lobos offense isn’t a pushover, but #Phase2 Hawaii has no business dropping this game.

Nov. 2 - Fresno State*

Across Hawaii’s football history, several of their seasons of awakening have coincided with big games against Fresno State. The goal for every program is to win a conference championship, and in order to do that Hawaii needs to win the West Division. Fresno State are the champs, but they’re undergoing a massive roster change this off-season. Can Cole McDonald and co. capitalize and earn an upset they’ll surely need to reach the stars? This game might be a season-defining moment for the 2019 Warriors.

Nov. 9 - San Jose State*

Hawaii has a Big Ten amount of trophy games, but oddly enough this game isn’t one of them. The long-time rivals tend to play some fun contests, but Hawaii will be hoping the 2019 game game at Aloha Stadium isn’t one of them. The Spartans were in 1-11 in 2018, and are likely to be marginally better at best. The run-and-shoot needs to run rampant on this evening.

Nov. 16 - @UNLV*

The Ninth Island Showdown featured another wild edition in 2018 when Warriors quarterback Chevan Cordeiro pinch-hit for Hawaii and hit a grandslam when the team desperately needed it. The trip to Vegas hasn’t been easy for the Warriors, with Hawaii losing in their last five trips there. The Cole McDonald vs. Armani Rogers showdown will likely resort in another fun, high-scoring affair between two programs hoping for breakout seasons.

Nov. 23 - San Diego State*

A rematch of Hawaii’s hallmark moment from 2018. The Warriors went into San Diego and got the monkey off their back, finally defeating Rocky Long’s Aztecs. There might not be a single team in the Mountain West harder to gauge than the 2019 Aztecs. 7-6 isn’t an awful season, but it’s underwhelming for a San Diego State program that has experienced better this decade. Both programs will be hoping this game has West Division title implications.

Nov. 30 - Army

Marquee out-of-conference showdowns in late November. Only in Hawaii. Army football was a Top 25 team in 2018, and that note probably makes Hawaii’s near-miss at West Point all the more frustrating. The triple option will feature again at Aloha Stadium, and is low-key Hawaii’s toughest home game of the season. The Warriors will be hoping their bowl hopes are secured by the time the tough stretch from November 16-30 shows up.

*conference game

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With that, we’ll turn the discussion to the comments. Are the Warriors poised for a breakout season? What constitutes success for the 2019 team? What games are must-win for Hawaii? Can they avoid a 2017-like letdown? Much to discuss as fall nears.