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Central Arkansas vs. Hawaii: Three things to look for, Prediction

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Hawaii returns to Oahu looking to right the ship against FCS foe before conference play

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 14 Hawaii at Washington Photo by Jesse Beals/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

CENTRAL ARKANSAS VS. HAWAII (Homecoming)

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii (Aloha Stadium)

Date/Time: Saturday, September 21st 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. The Hawaii-Oregon State feed reached 24,000+ viewers at one point. It was inconsistent for me, hopefully improves this time.

Radio: ESPN Honolulu

Head-to-Head: Hawaii and Central Arkansas have in fact played each other before in 2009, when the Warriors won 25-20 on opening night, barely avoiding an upset.

Three things to look for:

1. Central Arkansas might actually be decent

It’s human nature for most fans of FBS programs to look at the annual tune-up game against an FCS opponent as just that: a tune-up, contest ripe for a beat down. Hawaii, however, will move forward this week with caution.

As noted above, Central Arkansas has made the trip to Hawaii before and almost came away with a big check and a win. In the 2009 season opener between the two programs, Hawaii Wide Receiver Rodney Bradley scored with 1:22 remaining in the game to give Hawaii a 25-20 lead and prevent a disastrous start to the season. Many fans laughed off the team with the name “Purple Bears”, but Central Arkansas was up to the task.

Hawaii could very well smoke Central Arkansas. They’re more than capable of doing so. That said, the Purple Bears have already beaten one FBS foe this fall in Western Kentucky, and rank well in SP+. The Warriors should be prepared for a team that won’t waver.

2. Defense: two steps forward, one step back

Ever since Greg McMackin left Hawaii, defense has been a problem. The program has gone through a plethora of defensive coordinators, but has finally found some buy-in with current coordinator Corey Batoon. The results have been mixed, and were just plain rough in 2018, but Hawaii did a decent job of corralling Arizona’s Khalil Tate and J.J. Taylor, and then blanked Oregon State’s offense in the second half of that game. Finally, progress.

Well, that progress was halted on Saturday in Seattle. The Huskies dropped 450 yards and 52 points on Hawaii despite losing the time of possession battle by over 10 minutes. Quarterback Jacob Eason had all day to throw, and the Huskies top two running backs averaged 10.4 and 7.9 yards per carry. On offense, Washington took whatever they wanted. This week, Hawaii’s defense will want to show last week was a hiccup against a vastly superior opponent with a strong showing against the FCS Bears. Positive momentum is essential to making sure the Warriors don’t fall apart on that side of the ball come conference play.

3. Watch out for Breylin Smith for Lujuan Winningham

About that defense. Again, it’s easy to dismiss an FCS opponent that doesn’t immediately show the brand of a North Dakota State or James Madison, but Central Arkansas has a pretty good quarterback and star wide receiver. Hawaii’s defense will take note this week in prep.

Smith currently ranks 7th-nationally among FCS quarterbacks in passing yards, and wide receiver Lujuan Winningham has 477 receiving yards and 6 receiving touchdowns through the first three games (!!!). Those are a season’s worth of numbers for some players. Wide receiver Tyler Hudson ranks 30th-nationally in receiving yards as well. The Purple Bears can toss the ball around the yard. Hawaii’s defense should face a tougher test than one would expect from an FCS opponent at Aloha Stadium Saturday night.

Prediction:

The loss in Seattle was a mild reality check for Hawaii fans. I was in the stands and tailgated for the game, and can confirm: after defeating Arizona and Oregon State, fans were confident. Maybe not confident in a straight up win (although, some were), but confident that Hawaii would at least show out well. That was not the case. I think Hawaii will return to town looking to work out some issues before conference play, but will find some resistance from Central Arkansas, who is no typical FCS opponent. I think Hawaii will win semi-comfortably, but it won’t be a total dismantling either. Give me Hawaii 42, Central Arkansas 20.