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RWP - Hawaii vs. San Jose State: Three things to look for, Prediction

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Hawaii is scheduled to play San Jose State...in Hawaii?!?!... for the Dick Tomey Legacy Trophy

San Jose State v Hawaii Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

HAWAII VS. SAN JOSE ST.

RWP - Rainbow Warrior Perspective

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii (It’s been a wild week)

Date/Time: Saturday, December 5th 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 22-19-1, the Warriors winning the last 4 games in this series to put some distance between the two programs. That said, the last two contests have been high-scoring affairs that went down to the finish. Chevan Cordeiro powered his way past the Spartans in 2019, winning 42-40 and winning Mountain West Conference offensive player of the week award.

Three things to look for:

1. Can Hawaii thwart another pass-heavy attack?

Hawaii is fresh off of a potential launch point victory over previously undefeated Nevada, who was leading the Mountain West in Top 25 votes prior to the loss on Oahu. Nevada entered the contest riding a wave of hype and respect, especially the passing attack led by quarterback Carson Strong and wide receiver Romeo Doubs. The Wolf Pack’s numbers were gaudy coming into the night, but Hawaii held Strong to 168 passing yards and Doubs to 10 receiving yards. Hawaii was sneaky in its approach, dropping 8 defenders into coverage and forcing Strong to throw into small windows. Hawaii threw caution to the wind against the Wolf Pack running backs, Graham’s defense content to concede rushing yards. The goal was to slow down Nevada’s vaunted passing attack, and Hawaii did just that.

Could these tactics reemerge against San Jose State? The Spartans have no run game to speak of, their leading rusher entering Saturday’s game will be a backup quarterback. The Spartans passing attack, however, is the strength of the team. Transfer quarterback Nick Starkel is completing 70% of his passes. Wide receivers Bailey Gaither and Tre Walker make up the best wide receiver tandem in the conference. Will we see Hawaii drop 8 into coverage again this week? Don’t be shocked if Hawaii sells out to stop the pass.

2. Can Cordeiro and co. build off momentum against tough a Spartan defense?

Two weeks ago against Boise State, Hawaii’s offense appeared to be approaching rock bottom. The offense could only muster 3 points by halftime, nothing outside of Calvin Turner Jr. was working. I’m not sure what happened in the Hawaii locker room at halftime, but what transpired sparked a turning point for the offense. Hawaii’s offense started slow against Nevada, but from the second quarter on dominated a strong Nevada defense. Most importantly, Cordeiro finally found his confidence to throw the ball downfield.

This week, a stingy San Jose State defense awaits. The Spartans have not allowed more than 21 points in any of their games. Now, granted, Air Force, New Mexico, San Diego State, and UNLV are not murderer’s row in terms of offensive strength, but the Spartan defense is formidable, especially in the front seven. They’ve been steadfast in stopping opposing offenses from rushing the ball. Todd Graham’s offense will not concede that facet of the game, but this might be the week to unleash Cordeiro’s arm.

It’s unlikely this game will become a defensive struggle. Cordeiro, Turner, and co. will need to ball out, and the offense will probably need to pass to do that.

3. Is Hawaii poised to play spoiler again?

Due to the 2020 pandemic, the Mountain West scraped the typical divisional alignment of the conference. No West Division, no Mountain Division. This means winning percentage is the barometer for success and entrance to the Mountain West Championship game.

Hawaii has lost to Wyoming, San Diego State, and Boise State. Unfortunately, that means Hawaii has essentially been eliminated from the conference title race. That, however, doesn’t mean Hawaii can’t spoil the party. This time last week, Nevada appeared to be the top-ranked team in the conference. The Wolf Pack are still in the driver’s seat to play in the championship game, but Hawaii complicated the process by beating Nevada 24-21 this past weekend.

San Jose State is riding high. A 4-0 start for the first time since 1955, the Spartans are dreaming big. Their bout with Boise State, which was slated to air on big kid FOX, was canceled in controversial fashion. The Spartans are feeling hard done, and will be anxious to make an example of Hawaii. The Warriors, on the other hand, have an opportunity to play spoiler once again. It’ll take a strong, all around performance to beat the Spartans, but this weekend presents another chance for Hawaii to remind people who the reigning West Division champions are.

Prediction

I was wrong this past weekend. I drank the Wolf Pack Kool-Aid, and paid for it.

Hawaii was tremendous in all three phases against Nevada. Todd Graham and his staff out-coached Nevada, and the players out-performed them too. The defense stymieing Carson Strong and Romeo Doubs was an unexpected twist one week after Boise State found success on the ground and through the air.

Now, I’ve watched too much Hawaii football over the years to automatically believe home form equals road form. Hawaii historically isn’t the same team away from the rock. I think Hawaii will make San Jose State sweat this weekend, but ultimately I think the Spartans will be motivated to make a point this weekend. Prove me wrong, Warriors. Give me Hawaii 21, San Jose State 30.

I won’t hide. That’s what I had written for this game, and then PLOT TWIST on Tuesday: the game is being moved to Oahu because of restrictions in Santa Clara County. That, folks, changes everything. Can Hawaii play spoiler again? Expect madness at Aloha Stadium. Give me Hawaii 35, San Jose State 33.