The wait lasted nearly a week, but it’s finally here: Hawaii’s abbreviated 2020 football schedule has been released.
Hawaii Warriors 2020 Football Schedule
Oct. 24 - @ Fresno State
Oct. 31 - @ Wyoming
Nov. 7 - NEW MEXICO
Nov. 14 - @ San Diego State
Nov. 21 - BOISE STATE
Nov. 28 - NEVADA
Dec. 5 - @ San Jose State
Dec. 12 - UNLV
*All caps denotes home game
Let’s get the ugliness out of the way. This isn’t a normal fall, not for you, not for me, not for Hawaii football. Looking at the games listed above, it’ll be an accomplishment for Hawaii and its opposition if all of them are played. Head coach Todd Graham said the other day that 10-15 players are still making their way back to Oahu from the mainland, and when they do arrive a two-week quarantine is mandatory.
Then on Wednesday, the program was shutdown after positive tests for COVID-19 meant it was time to press the pause button. It’s unclear what happens next. This comes after an off-season in which Graham and his new staff, hired in January, had spring football canceled and summer workouts scaled back. You get the picture: Hawaii will enter this bizarre season having experienced some adversity. That goes for all college football programs, but it’s heightened by the fact that Hawaii is attempting to launch a new regime after Nick Rolovich left for Pullman, Washington. That’s all to say, chill out folks. Expecting golden results this fall might not be fair to Graham and his team.
Now that all of that has been noted, the schedule: Hawaii opens up with tension right off the bat with a trip to Fresno State. I’ve beaten the topic to death already, but the uneven playing field must be addressed: Fresno State is probably at the biggest disadvantage of any team in America. The new coach and his team haven’t been in the team facility since MARCH. You read that correctly. No disrespect to Fresno State, I expect Kalen DeBoer to have that program humming again, but considering their unique struggles, it would be disappointing and discouraging if Hawaii dropped that game.
Next up is a trip to Wyomi...hahaha I couldn’t finish that sentence without laughing. What is the conference thinking here? Minimizing risk is the goal to a successful season. So let’s send Hawaii on the most logistically-difficult trip the conference has to offer? This game wasn’t even originally scheduled. Bizarre, but that aside a tough contest for UH.
Hawaii’s first home game will be against New Mexico in the battle of the strictest pandemic regulations bowl. Then Hawaii will travel the following week to San Diego State in Carson, California (yup, Aztecs are playing at a neutral-ish site until their new stadium is built). Hawaii’s first four games feature three road trips. Welcome to the Mountain West, Todd Graham.
It doesn’t get much easier from there. The return home features a rematch of the 2019 Mountain West championship game against Boise State, the Broncos’ first trip to Aloha Stadium since 2016. After that clash the schedule chills out some concluding with a home game against Nevada, one final road trip to San Jose State, and of course the season concludes with Senior Night against UNLV.
The introduction of the Wyoming game is a brutal, only cause I felt Hawaii had a decent shot against Air Force due to the incredible challenges the Falcons face this fall with so many opt outs (or, eh, “turnbacks”). Adding Wyoming as a substitute adds a game in which UH will be the underdog. I think Hawaii wins the opener against Fresno State, loses the Wyoming game, and then defeats New Mexico in the home opener.
The next two games will probably decide whether the season is successful or not. What will San Diego State look like under Brady Hoke? Will they skip a beat? Improve? Hard to tell. FWIW, the Mountain West media picked them to win the division back in the summer.
The next game against Boise State, what is there to say? The Broncos beat the Warriors by 22-points and 21-points last season despite dealing with injuries at quarterback. This will be a challenge, and maybe the barometer as to whether Hawaii has maintained momentum, or even built off it, or regressed in season #1 under Graham (again, disclaimer remains, Hawaii has been dealt a bad hand off-the-field in 2020).
Hawaii absolutely thrashed Nevada last season. Losing that 2020 game or the home finale against UNLV would not be good. That San Jose trip sandwiched between those games has a history of close contests.
The Mountain West championship game will not be determined by divisions, but instead win percentage. Figuring this out already gives me a headache.
In my opinion only, I would say...
Best-case scenario: 6-2
Worst-case scenario: 3-5
Realistic prediction: probably 5-3 or 4-4
...but really, expect chaos. The uneven playing-field and overall results of the pandemic are bound to create some weird results.
In conclusion, I will say my feelings are conflicted. I want to be and am excited about football, but as evidenced by Hawaii’s practices being shutdown, I’m worried about this season. I really don’t want to end up like C-USA/Sun Belt where games are being canceled and postponed on a weekly basis. I want all of this to work, but I hope health and safety remain a priority. Wins and losses aside, I hope Hawaii and the rest of the conference have a successful season with few or no hiccups.
For better or worse, Hawaii football is back. See you all October 24th.