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

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The Warriors play their first road game of 2019, and a third-consecutive matchup vs. the Pac-12

Oregon State v Hawaii Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

HAWAII VS. WASHINGTON

Location: Seattle, Washington

Date/Time: Saturday, September 14th at 1:30 p.m. (Hawaii Time)

Television: Pac-12 Networks

Streaming: Pac-12 Now App (subscription to Pac-12 Network required)

Radio: ESPN Honolulu

Head-to-Head: The Huskies lead the brief series 3-2, having won the most recent contest in Hawaii 17-16 back in 2014, Chris Petersen’s debut game as Washington head coach. Hawaii’s latest win in the series was a famous one in Rainbow Warrior folklore, the 35-28 comeback victory in 2007. The home finale of the dream season. Washington won the first ever game in the series on January 1st, 1938. Huskies won 53-13 in the Poi Bowl, which should become a thing again.

Three things to look for:

1. Not all Power 5 programs are created equal

Hawaii is the talk of the Mountain West. Our friends at Underdog Dynasty have the Warriors ranked the fourth best Group of 5 team. Our very own Mike Wittmann has Hawaii ranked first in the MWC Connection power poll. Hawaii Kool-Aid hasn’t been this plentiful since Bryant Moniz was finding Greg Salas all over the Aloha Stadium field. A top local recruit committed to the Warriors this week. You get the point: Hawaii is riding high right now.

Week 3, however, presents a new challenge. This will be Hawaii’s first road game of 2019, and it comes against the Washington Huskies. Washington is coming off of a bizarre loss to California in a game that didn’t started until 10:30 PT thanks to weather delay. It’s not often home Hawaii is not the final game of the college football Saturday. That loss bounced the Huskies from the Top 25, but don’t get it twisted: Chris Petersen’s Dawgs are much, much better than Hawaii’s Week 0 and Week 2 opposition. According to 247 Sports, the Huskies have had a Top 25 recruiting class the last three recruiting cycles. The Huskies talent level is elite. Hawaii has proven they’re a good team after defeating Arizona and Oregon State. Against Washington, can they prove they’re a great team?

2. Attack young secondary, defense

The Huskies are a three-touchdown favorite against UH. Clearly expected to win, and win comfortably. If Hawaii is to pull off the shocker, where do they attack? Where is Washington’s weak point? Really, nowhere. They’re very talented, but the defense is also very young. Middle linebacker Myles Bryant and defensive tackle Benning Potoa’e are the only returning full-time defensive starters from the 2018 team. The secondary is breaking in four new starters. Now, again, don’t get too excited Warriors fans. These defenders are plenty gifted. But after playing an FCS opponent in Week 1, and a run-first attack in Week 2, Hawaii’s run-and-shoot might present a unique challenge to the young Husky secondary.

The Husky pass defense ranks 29th nationally. So far, so good, but again...the Cole McDonald-led passing attack that relies on adjusting on the fly has the potential to be a headache for the Husky secondary.

3. Keep Cole McDonald off the ground

This is the big one. Hawaii’s offensive line has been tremendous in pass protection to this point. That said, the Arizona pass rush ranks tied for 111th nationally, Oregon State’s pass rush ranks tied for 68th. Washington’s pass rush is tied for 16th nationally. Like many other facets of this game, the Huskies defensive line has better players than Hawaii’s preceding opponents.

The run-and-shoot offense can be feast or famine based on protection. If the quarterback has ample time to throw, 400+ passing yards and 35+ points are a near guarantee for this offensive system. However, if protection doesn’t hold up, well...go re-watch the 2018 Hawaii Bowl. If Hawaii wants any chance of shocking the Huskies, McDonald must have a clean pocket. Like I noted earlier, the Warriors offensive line has proven it’s good. Now can they prove they’re great? It’s a must if UH wants to see McDonald expose the Husky secondary.

Prediction:

As noted earlier, the Washington Huskies are a 21-point favorite for this contest. Across college football history, maybe no other program has a greater disparity in home-away performances than Hawaii football. Understandable, the travel is absolutely brutal. No team on the mainland goes through the arduous effort Hawaii does to play road games. That’s why it’s fair to withhold judgement of Hawaii until they’ve played away from home. Hawaii’s first road test is arguably its toughest. I think Hawaii will play with confidence and attempt to establish the short passing game to move the chains, but I think Washington’s offensive line is going to be a problem. The Oregon State Beavers did a good job of establishing the run and controlling the clock against Hawaii, and I think the Huskies will do the same, but to a more successful degree. Give me Hawaii 17, Washington 38. Prove me wrong, Warriors.