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RWP - Hawaii vs. UNLV: Three things to look for, Prediction

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The Island Showdown Trophy is up for grabs in Hawaii’s season finale

NCAA Football: Hawaii at UNLV Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

HAWAII VS. UNLV

RWP - Rainbow Warrior Perspective

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii

Date/Time: Saturday, December 12th at 6:00 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. The Team1Sports App must be downloaded on your phone/tablet/whatever in order to watch.

Radio: ESPN Honolulu

Head-to-Head: Hawaii leads the series 17-12, the Warriors winning the most recent games in 2018 and 2019. If you’ve been following this head-to-head section all season, you’ve noticed Hawaii plays in plenty of series defined by winning streaks. Not this series. Hawaii and UNLV both have at least 5 wins against each other since 2010. Hawaii is currently in possession of the Island Showdown Trophy after winning last season in Vegas 21-7.

Three things to look for:

1. In the season finale, can Hawaii finally put together a complete offensive performance?

Thinking back to this past January, which feels like 3 years ago, Hawaii experienced one of the most bizarre sequences I can remember when it comes to coaching transitions. Mississippi State moved on from their head coach in January, a decision that should have been made much sooner. This led to Washington State’s Mike Leach taking over at Mississippi State, which then shockingly lead to Nick Rolovich leaving Manoa for Pullman, the ultimate scenery change.

Many pleaded for Hawaii to continue with a run-and-shoot offense disciple, continue the momentum built by Rolovich. Instead, Hawaii hired Todd Graham, who has a history of throwing the football, but made it clear he was not going to continue with the R&S.

Through one season, the results are mixed. Hawaii’s point totals through 7 games are as follows: 34, 7, 39, 10, 32, 24. Hawaii quarterback Chevan Cordeiro leads the team in passing and rushing yards. The team has 260 passing attempts and 244 rushing attempts. Balanced. Calvin Turner, who was a quarterback at Jacksonville, leads the team in receiving and is third in rushing. He and Cordeiro have largely powered this offense this season.

UNLV comes to Oahu with an 0-5 record. The fewest points they’ve conceded is 34. The fewest. Slow starts have been a bad trend for the Hawaii offense all season. Can the Warriors finally put it all together and smoke the Rebel defense? 40+ points should be within reach.

2. Two first-year head coaches looking to enter the off-season with optimism

When Hawaii defeated UNLV in Las Vegas last fall, it was common knowledge that Rebel head coach Tony Sanchez was unlikely to return. However, few expected that contest to be Nick Rolovich’s final Island Showdown as well.

Todd Graham and Marcus Arroyo took over two programs in very different places. Arroyo arrived to UNLV with a Rose Bowl ring in hand after coaching the Justin Herbert-led Oregon Ducks offense, with promise as a talented recruiter. Before Todd Graham took over the Hawaii job, he was out of coaching altogether, but his coaching tree and coaching history at the Group of 5 level (especially Tulsa) made him an appealing hire for UH.

Neither expected to be navigating a global pandemic months after being hired.

So far, the results on the field have been brutal for Arroyo and the Rebels. That said, his 2020 recruiting class ranked 2nd in the Mountain West according to 247 Sports, and his new class currently ranks 2nd in the 2021 class as of 12/7/20. Arroyo remains promising, appears to be raising the talent level of UNLV football.

As for Hawaii, this season was frustrating. Currently sitting at 3-4, Hawaii started off with a strong road win against Fresno State. From there, it’s been a mixed bag. Blasted at Wyoming and San Diego State didn’t seem to lend confidence to UH being a conference title contender. Negativity was building right up through three quarters of the Boise State game, then the Warriors rallied to only lose by 8 in that game, and then shock close-to-being-ranked Nevada the following week. Just as it seemed as if Hawaii had turned a corner, this past weekend’s San Jose State game was a dud for UH. There will be plenty of debate about the direction of Hawaii football this off-season, but a comfortable win over UNLV would cap off an at-times promising debut season for Todd Graham.

3. First lopsided score since 2015?

As of the writing of this section (12/7/20), Hawaii is a 21-point favorite over UNLV. It’s unusual in a series where 5 of the last 7 games have been decided by 8-points or fewer. UNLV, however, has been pretty brutal this season and Hawaii is 3-4 despite a difficult slate of games in this shortened season.

UNLV quarterback Max Gilliam will stop eating sushi off of naked models in time to provide a dual threat to the Hawaii defense, and running back Charles Williams is one of the Mountain West’s best, but let’s be honest: there is a reason UNLV is 0-5 with several blowout losses. They’re not loaded with talent, and they’ve also been plagued by absences due to COVID-19. The betting spread is justified, and it could be Hawaii’s opportunity to finally put together a complete performance and smack UNLV.

I’ll predict Calvin Turner Jr. has an enormous game for Hawaii.

All that said, buyer beware. Weird things happen when Hawaii and UNLV meet on the football field.

(I’m sorry, I can’t help myself. I have to post Robert Kekaula losing his mind)

Prediction

Welp, wrong again last week. I’m slowly morphing into a jinx.

This is probably it for Hawaii football in 2020. I’m weary just thinking about Hawaii football in 2020. Rolovich leaving in January for the Pac-12. Todd Graham replacing him with only two weeks to recruit before signing day. The pandemic canceling spring practice, and ultimately the 2020 season. The Mountain West reversing course and bringing fall football back. Hawaii then being forced to have limited participation practices due to state restrictions because of the virus. All that before even taking a snap.

I sincerely hope that when Hawaii opens up in 2021 with UCLA, the world is starting to feel somewhat normal again.

I think Hawaii will end this cursed year on a positive note. Last week sucked, but I genuinely believe Hawaii is a good, well-coached team. In time, Graham will have the correct personnel for his vision. I expect Chevan Cordeiro and Calvin Turner to have stat-padding performances, and the defense will bounce back to keep Charles Williams from gashing them as badly as San Jose State’s running backs did. Give me Hawaii 41, UNLV 20.