HAWAII @ WYOMING
Location: Laramie, Wyoming
Date/Time: Saturday, October 30th at 3:45 p.m. (Hawaii Time)
Streaming: I think this link? (TV subscription log-in required)
Radio: ESPN Honolulu
Head-to-Head: The battle for the Paniolo Trophy resumes on Friday night. Wyoming leads the series 14-10, but Hawaii won the most recent matchup in 2018 by a score of 17-13 at Aloha Stadium. Current starting quarterback Chevan Cordeiro started that game, if you can believe that. Hawaii has lost in their last 5 trips to Laramie, having not won at 7,220 feet since 1991.
Three things to look for:
1. Chance to make a statement vs. desperation
The Mountain West’s unusual week 1 brought with it some surprising results. It was no bold claim to say that Hawaii is better than Fresno State, but history had said otherwise. The rivalry series had been one way traffic in Fresno’s favor the last decade or so, but Hawaii won comfortably this past Saturday by the score of 34-19. To be honest, the margin could have been wider had Hawaii cleaned up some special teams mistakes. Chevan Cordeiro and the running game ran rampant at Bulldog Stadium in en route to showing that the Warriors are not rebuilding under Todd Graham, but reloading.
Wyoming on the other hand, came into 2020 with high expectations. With quarterbacks Sean Chambers and Levi Williams showing promise, some felt this season might be head coach Craig Bohl’s true breakout season as a Group of 5 power. That breakout campaign started in horrible fashion with Sean Chambers breaking his leg in the opening series, and then Nevada opened a surprising 28-6 lead. Wyoming would rally back to force overtime, but ultimately lose 34-37.
Friday night’s game serves as a potential turning point of sorts for both teams. Hawaii will want to shock the conference by opening the season 2-0 with two road wins at tough venues. Wyoming will want to avoid an unthinkable 0-2. Expect two teams eager to win Friday night.
2. New offense bodes well for cold conditions
Weather forecasts change all the time, but Friday night’s game is unsurprisingly looking like a cold one. By Laramie’s standards, it could be much worse. By the standards of a bunch of young adults from Hawaii, it’s still plenty frigid. The last time Hawaii played in freezing temperatures, the run-and-shoot Warriors posted season-low point and yardage totals in Boise, Idaho. Hawaii and cold haven’t always gotten along.
The victory against Fresno State, however, presented hope. Not because it was cold in Fresno (it absolutely wasn’t), but because of how Hawaii won the game. Despite winning comfortably, Hawaii did not throw a single touchdown pass against the Bulldogs. The Warriors instead rushed for 323 yards on 53 carries for 4 rushing touchdowns. Complete madness, totally foreign experience for Hawaii fans who are accustomed to pass-heavy attacks the last 20 years of Rainbow Warrior football. Chevan Cordeiro is as elusive as they come, but will need to be guarded about too many runs. That said, if the wind picks up on Friday night and things get too cold for ideal passing options, Hawaii has proven it can play modern smash mouth football. Offensive philosophy will not hinder Hawaii on Friday night.
3. Pressure Levi Williams
Football can suck sometimes. Wyoming quarterback Sean Chambers is one of the best football players and competitors in the Mountain West. Yet another injury setback, Wyoming is now forced to play Levi Williams.
Now, Williams has started before. The results have been mixed. Tyler Vander Waal, who is now at Idaho State, replaced an injured Chambers last season, but eventually Craig Bohl moved on to Williams. Williams struggled at Air Force, leading an offense that only scored 6 points. Williams did perform mostly well in the bowl victory over Georgia State (although, a 42% completion rate is not desired). In Saturday’s opener, Williams passed for 227 passing yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception against Nevada. Altogether, appeared to be an improved player in leading the comeback against the Wolf Pack.
Nobody really stops running back Xazavian Valladay, instead just hoping to contain him as best as a defense can. He’ll get his yards, but Wyoming’s Williams will be key in this contest. The pressure is on him to perform. Hawaii’s defense did a solid job of frustrating Fresno State quarterback Jake Haener with a variety of blitz packages. If Hawaii wants to win in Laramie, they’ll need to make Williams uncomfortable in the pocket.
Hey, I actually wasn’t terrible with my prediction last week!
This is a massive game for Hawaii. Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro appears to have taken the next step to potentially being an all-conference type performer. The defense lived up the billing of a Todd Graham defense: bend, but don’t break and force turnovers.
Now, Wyoming is not Fresno State. Even having lost to Nevada, this is a strong Cowboys football team that’ll be desperate to not start an unfathomable 0-2. I’m projecting a thriller on FS1. Wyoming’s pass defense gave up yards in bunches to the Wolf Pack, and I think Hawaii can exploit that as well.
Despite not playing each other frequently, Hawaii and Wyoming have played in several close contests over the years. I think Friday will follow suit.
Give me Hawaii 34, Wyoming 33