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Rainbow Warrior Perspective - Hawaii vs. Boise State: Three things to look for, Prediction

Hawaii returns home to face another challenge following loss to San Diego State

NCAA Football: Mountain West Championship-Hawaii at Boise State Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports

HAWAII VS. BOISE STATE

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

Date/Time: Saturday, November 21st at 6:00 p.m. (Hawaii Time)

Television: CBS Sports Network

Streaming: CBS Sports App

Radio: ESPN Honolulu

Head-to-Head: Boise State leads this series 14-3. Hawaii won the first two contests back in the 90s when the Broncos weren’t quite the Boise State we recognize, but it’s been all Broncos since. Hawaii played Boise State twice in 2019, losing the first game 59-37 and the Mountain West championship game 31-10. It’s been a one-sided series, but obviously Hawaii isn’t alone in that regard when it comes to playing Boise State.

Three things to look for:

1. Will this game even happen, and if it does, what will Boise State’s roster look like?

In case you haven’t heard, 2020 sucks. I do not enjoy following COVID-19 issues, but reality is it could play a role in this week’s game.

Boise State recorded 0 players out due to COVID-19/tracing in Week 1. That number grew to 1 in Week 2. Then the total was 4 in Week 3, and then alarmingly shot up to 14 this past week. The Broncos officially have a problem with the virus. This forced Boise State to be missing several key players, including a plethora of the defensive tackle room. Reserve offensive tackle Ben Dooley was forced to play as a backup nose tackle against Colorado State. It’s more than fair to wonder if that number 14 increases this week, and if so will the game be canceled? Boise State must have a roster of 53 players, with other requirements at positions like quarterback, offensive/defensive lines. As noted with the moving of Dooley, there are ways to game that system, but be ready for Boise State to either be arriving on Oahu with a scaled back roster, or sadly even forcing cancellation if things have escalated.

Air Force, to this point, is the only other Mountain West team sidelined by an outbreak. That canceled the Wyoming-Air Force game. Is Boise State-Hawaii next? I certainly hope not. Clean it up, Broncos.

2. Is this the week Hawaii finally stops the run?

The last three weeks have been rough for a Hawaii defense that started strongly against Fresno State in the opener. Hawaii has conceded 886 rushing yards in the last three games, none of those opponents were triple option teams. That’s an outrageous number. Hawaii completely flummoxed San Diego State quarterback Carson Baker, holding him to 4/13 passing with 2 interceptions, and the Aztecs still found ample success on the ground. Hawaii, through the mid-way point of this god-forsaken season, rank 121st in rushing defense. A troubling stat.

This week, however, presents a chance for improvement. Boise State’s star running back George Holani has been sidelined with a rumored MCL injury he acquired against Air Force. He’s been out the last two games. In his place, running back Andrew VanBuren and others have struggled to find anything on the ground. As a result, the Broncos rank 102nd in rushing offense. If Holani is out again, and it sure seems like he will be, this is Hawaii’s opportunity to finally halt the opposing rushing attack. Once the run is stopped, maybe this defense can get back on track to the way it performed against Fresno State.

Yes, of course it must stated that Boise State’s Hank Bachmeier, Jack Sears are much better quarterbacks than what Hawaii has seen to this point, but point remains that Hawaii should be able to slow down the rushing attack this Saturday.

3. Can Hawaii flip the switch on offense?

Welp. Do not believe anything I say, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

In the preseason, I said that whatever happens, at least Hawaii can rely on its top tier offensive line. The offensive line returned every single starter and some key depth from one of the Mountain West’s best position groups in 2019. All-conference caliber talents across the line.

In 2019, Hawaii conceded 27 sacks over the course of 15 games. So far, through 4 games in 2020, Hawaii has conceded 17 sacks. Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro was visibly upset on Saturday in Carson, California, running for his life seemingly every other down. Frankly, Codeiro’s exceptional ability to evade defenders has kept that sack total from being even worse.

The bump blocking technique from the run-and-shoot offense is different from the approach Hawaii is learning from head coach Todd Graham and his staff. Remember when I said the lack of real practice/togetherness in the off-season might catch up with Hawaii? This seems to be one position group where that is holding true. Whatever be the case, if Hawaii wants to upset Boise State (Broncos opened -11), Cordeiro and the offense must be on-point. Boise State’s defense isn’t devoid of talent, but it’s not on San Diego State’s level. The Broncos can be exploited in the secondary. The offensive line must give Cordeiro enough time to work his magic and find his wide receivers down field. It’s not optional: if Hawaii wants to win, the offensive line must play better.

Prediction:

Last week, I picked the correct winner, but was quite wrong about how the game would proceed. Hawaii punted on 7 consecutive drives at one point against San Diego State. The Aztecs have the conference’s best defense by a wide margin in my opinion, but that’s still unacceptable.

Hawaii at home and Hawaii on the mainland have historically been two different teams. This game is especially difficult to predict, because I can’t project who the Broncos will be without this week in player personnel. An hour before kickoff against Colorado State, the Broncos dropped a bomb that most of the defensive tackle room would miss the game. Some due to COVID-19, others injuries, but still a surprise. Yes, the Broncos went on to smoke Colorado State anyway, but only so many hits to the two-deep can be taken before things get dicey.

On top of that, the only reason this preview is being released on a Tuesday is because another surge in COVID-19 cases for Boise State could results in cancellation of this game. Not only am I not sure about a score prediction, I’m not sure the game happens.

Alas, I’ll give it a shot. Hawaii playing on home turf against a Boise State team likely featuring absences all over feels like a recipe for a bizarre game. Hawaii has not finished a game within 20 points of Boise State since the famed 2007 victory over the Broncos. I think that changes this week. However, I don’t think Hawaii’s protection issues vanish in one week. Give me Hawaii 25, Boise State 33.