HAWAII @ FRESNO STATE
Location: Fresno, California
Date/Time: Saturday, October 24th at 1:30 p.m. (Hawaii Time)
Television: Spectrum Sports (PPV in the islands only, so no TV channel for mainlanders)
Streaming: A stream provided by Spectrum Sports. Mainlanders only, the feed is geo-blocked in Hawaii. Last season this stream was via Facebook, this season however I’ve read the Team1Sports App must be downloaded.
Radio: ESPN Honolulu
Head-to-Head: Fresno State leads the series 29-22-1. Those ties are always funny (1985 teams tied 24-24 in Fresno). In the new WAC era 2000-2010, Hawaii largely owned this series. Since then the Bulldogs have had a decade of dominance vs. Hawaii. Hawaii has defeated the Bulldogs once since 2011, a win in Fresno in 2016. Those results aside, it’s been all Bulldogs. Since 2008, Hawaii has three wins against Fresno, all at Bulldog Stadium. As crazy as it sounds, it’s true: Hawaii has not beaten Fresno State at Aloha Stadium since 2007. Despite Hawaii winning the West Division in 2019, and Fresno State experiencing a down season, the Bulldogs still won 41-38 in Honolulu last November.
Three things to look for:
1. Prepare for unpredictable results
Let’s not pretend this isn’t a completely unusual circumstance. The pandemic initially canceled the 2020 Mountain West season, but ultimately just delayed it. Hawaii and Fresno State have played each other plenty of times over the decades in October, but not as a season opener.
These two programs have been through a difficult period. Hawaii saw Nick Rolovich leave for Pullman, Washington. Todd Graham was hired, and the pandemic arrived not too long after. Graham wasn’t allowed to actually conduct practice with his players until the last few weeks, and even that included some practices shutdown due to positive COVID-19 tests. No spring ball, no typical summer workouts, no August fall camp.
Things are not any better for Fresno State. In fact, it’s worse! New head coach Kalen DeBoer was hired to replace Jeff Tedford, who unexpectedly retired at the end of last season. Due to state restrictions, Fresno State wasn’t allowed to have any of their players in their team facility at all. From March until just recently, the Bulldogs have been separated.
Two new coaching staffs, taking over two teams with new faces, with minimal preparation periods. C’mon, man. None of us know what is going to happen on Saturday.
2. It’s Chevan Time
Among the surprising developments in 2020 for Hawaii football, it’s easy to forget that 2019 All-Mountain West second-team selection Cole McDonald declared for the NFL Draft. The merry-go-round is over: no more back-and-forth with McDonald and Chevan Cordeiro. Hawaii won ball games, Rolovich and company got the job done, but it was odd seeing two quarterbacks share the position. Todd Graham hasn’t played similar games this fall: he’s stated Cordeiro is clearly the #1 QB.
Last season, Cordeiro threw for 907 passing yards, passed for 8 touchdowns, 3 interceptions, with a 57.5% completion rate. Cordeiro added 212 rushing yards and 3 rushing touchdowns as well. Many fans, media, etc. expect Cordeiro to hit the ground running as the starter, some believing he’ll be better than McDonald. If the Warriors want to continue the consistent success of recent seasons, Cordeiro will want to bump up that completion percentage and be careful with his health. He runs a bunch, and is very good at it, but isn’t the biggest of quarterbacks.
New offensive coordinator G.J. Kinne labeled Cordeiro “elite” in one of his recent press conferences. Expectations are high, and all eyes will be on Cordeiro this Saturday against Fresno State. His performance, and whether it leads to victory or not, will go a long way to establishing the tone of this new season.
3. Will the real Fresno State, please stand up
You’d be hard-pressed to find a college football program that’s been rocked by the pandemic quite like Fresno State. As noted earlier, the pandemic forced Fresno State away from their team facility, meaning the team weightlifted, conditioned, etc. on the concourse of Fresno State’s baseball field. They weren’t allowed in the team facility until just recently. March-September, nothing. Four weeks later, it’s time to suit up.
Fresno State won the West Division in 2017, 2018, and won the conference altogether in 2018. It appeared a worthy contender had emerged within the conference, a program that might rival Boise State’s consistent success. That all crumbled in 2019 when the Bulldogs surprisingly finished 4-8. Head coach Jeff Tedford had been dealing with health issues all season, and was forced to retire early. Kalen DeBoer returned to Fresno State from Indiana, having served as offensive coordinator there. DeBoer was at Fresno State from 2017-2018.
It was one bad season, an understandable tumble considering Tedford’s circumstance. DeBoer took over and inherited a team full of talent, especially on offense. Might the Bulldogs immediately return to contender status in the Mountain West? They have the talent for it, but the disruption caused by the pandemic has put the Bulldogs in an impossible situation. Washington transfer quarterback Jake Haener figures to make a huge difference on offense, the wide receivers are strong, but there is no doubt these circumstances aren’t ideal.
Who are we to expect Saturday? A mini resurgence of the 2017-2018 Bulldogs? Or a program coming off a 4-8 season with no time to prep?
I suck at making these predictions in general. Add in the variables of this historic season, and c’mon. I have no idea what happens.
Two brand new staffs, with new starting quarterbacks (although Cordeiro has played plenty). Hawaii is coming off one of their best seasons ever, but even in that special season managed to lose to Fresno State. This is a tricky contest for Hawaii. Opening the season with back-to-back road trips, most would agree Wyoming is the tougher of the two opponents. This Fresno State game feels like a must-win if Hawaii is to retain its title of the West Division’s best.
The Warriors were dealt a bad hand this off-season. The Bulldogs were dealt an even worse hand. I think Hawaii has the continuity to pull out the win this weekend, but I don’t think it’ll be straightforward. Here’s hoping both teams make it to Saturday with no new positive COVID-19 tests.
I don’t know how to predict games, but I do know this: Hawaii-Fresno State football games always end up entertaining. Bank on that.
Give me Hawaii 37, Fresno State 28.