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Hawaii vs. New Mexico State: Three things to look for, Prediction

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Hawaii plays the Aggies, again, in first game played in front of home fans since 2019

SJSU v Hawaii Photo by Darryl Oumi/Getty Images

HAWAII VS. NEW MEXICO ST.

Location: Honolulu, Hawaii (Clarence T.C. Ching Complex)

Date/Time: Saturday, October 23rd at 6:00 p.m. (Hawaii Time)

Television: Spectrum Sports PPV (for Hawaii residents only)

Streaming: Download the Team1Sports App.

Radio: ESPN Honolulu

Head-to-Head: The Rainbow Warriors lead the series 9-0, with the Warriors winning the most recent contest, uh...a month ago. Hawaii won the first ever matchup between the two programs back in 1978, and then the Warriors and Aggies didn’t meetup again until 2005. The two played each other every season through 2011, and then Hawaii left for the Mountain West. Now the two programs are making up for lost time, playing twice this season, and an additional six times through 2028!

Three things to look for:

1. Wait, these guys again?!

A few years ago, Hawaii announced a scheduling change for future seasons. Goodbye, Army series, hello...in-season home-and-home series against New Mexico State? It seemed strange then, and is still strange now. It’s Hawaii football, this program never has and never will struggle to attract football teams to Oahu. It’s paradise, you know? Hawaii routinely has one, two, sometimes even three Power 5 foes on the schedule. Why schedule NMSU twice in one season, and an additional six times through 2028?! I don’t know, but that’s precisely what happened. The Rainbow Warriors and Aggies are set to become familiar foes going forward.

Needless to say, it’s strange writing a post about an opponent Hawaii’s already played against. Hawaii played the Aggies on September 25th, winning 41-21 in Las Cruces on the Aggies’ homecoming. Crazy enough, the Aggies haven’t played a home game since. The contest at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex will be the third of three consecutive road games for the Aggies. The Aggies were on a bye last week.

During that game, Hawaii posted 492 yards of offense in a balanced attack, averaging 6.5 yards per carry and 11.1 yards per pass. Hawaii blew the game open in the fourth quarter thanks to some NMSU turnovers. Chevan Cordeiro was solid, but he injured his shoulder trying to make a tackle after an interception and hasn’t played quarterback for the Warriors since (he hilariously played punter against Nevada, though).

Hawaii kept the Aggies’ rushing attack in check, but NMSU QB Jonah Johnson was a slippery task for the Warriors, frequently dodging sacks and tackles for loss. Wide receivers Isaiah Garcia-Castaneda and Jared Wyatt will need to watched by Hawaii’s defensive backs.

Hawaii is an 18-point favorite this time around, but the status of Chevan Cordeiro will swing that one way or another.

2. Eyes on the quarterback position, again

As noted above, Hawaii is projected as a comfortable favorite for this game. Defeat a team by 20 points on their home field, it’s no shocker the Warriors are heavily favored on the home return trip. On paper, the Warriors are just better.

...when Chevan Cordeiro, one of the best Group of 5 quarterbacks around, is available.

Yes, true freshman quarterback Brayden Schager has struggled in his two stints as the starter. Schager has 344 passing yards on 72 attempts, is completing 50% of his passes and has a 1:2 touchdown to interception ratio. Now, lay off the kid, this is a harsh ask. Rarely do true freshman quarterbacks ascend to second string going into their first season of college. Even more rarely are they forced to start. Schager will learn and grow, but so far this has been a struggle.

Now, playing NMSU at home is nowhere near the difficult task that playing Nevada is. Heck, the Wolf pack smashed the Aggies 55-28 just a few weeks ago. Schager has a chance to build some confidence this week, but obviously Hawaii fans are hoping star quarterback Chevan Cordeiro is 100% and ready to go Saturday. Hawaii is not on upset alert, but if forced to play devil’s advocate for potential danger Saturday, playing a struggling true freshman quarterback might be the recipe for a closer-than-anticipated contest. Especially if running Dae Dae Hunter misses time with the injury he picked up in Reno.

3. Welcome back, Hawaii football fans

Not to sound hyperbolic, but I’m not sure any group of college football fans have experienced attendance-related troubles like Hawaii fans have the last two years.

In the 2019 Hawaii Bowl, Hawaii defeated the Zach Wilson-led Brigham Young Cougars. Hawaii quarterback Cole McDonald was incredible. The Warriors appeared in their first ever Mountain West championship game a few weeks earlier. Nick Rolovich hadn’t left yet. Times were good.

Hawaii football fans haven’t been allowed to see a home football game since. The pandemic forced Hawaii to play in front of a sea of orange seats in 2020. Shockingly, Aloha Stadium was essentially condemned in January of 2021, forcing Hawaii’s athletic administration to find an alternative. The alternative: building out Clarence T.C. Ching Complex into a temporary, passable football stadium. Hawaii fans were upset, because the capacity for attendance would obviously be reduced drastically.

All of that wasn’t enough, of course. As June 2021 came to a close, the craziness escalated thanks to the unending global pandemic. COVID-19 infection numbers rose on Oahu, meaning Governor David Ige and local city/state officials reverted back to lockdown rules. For some institutions, of course. Vaccinated tourists were free to visit Oahu, but Hawaii Athletics could not implement similar rules. Hawaii’s projected attendance for home football games started in 2021 expecting to allow up to 50,000 fans attend (or whatever the usual 20k-25k numbers are), to being slimmed down to 9,000 fans, to the pandemic reducing the number to 0. All that preparation for Clarence T.C. Ching Complex, only to see the Portland State, San Jose State, and Fresno State games played in front of empty bleachers and the band.

The madness, as of this posting, appears to finally be over. Up to 1,000 Hawaii football fans (vaccination required) will be allowed to see Hawaii play New Mexico State during what the program is calling “Colt Brennan Week”, where the Warriors will honor the legacy of the late great Hawaii quarterback.

It has been a long, bizarre, frustrating road, but for a select few (who have an obligation to be loud), the home fans can finally see the home team play. Welcome back, Oahu-based Warriors fans.

Prediction:

We’ve already seen Hawaii play NMSU, little this week will come as a surprise to either team. Hawaii, however, could once again be missing quarterback Chevan Cordeiro and possibly even emerging star running back Dae Dae Hunter.

The Aggies are coming off a bye, but are playing their third straight road game. Somewhat refreshed, the Aggies cannot be overlooked by Hawaii, but I think the energy at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex will provide the Warriors with a huge lift. Even if the Warriors are missing Cordeiro, Hawaii should have enough talent to defeat the 1-6 Aggies.

I’m going to cheat again.

(With Cordeiro) Hawaii 42, New Mexico State 20

(Without Cordeiro) Hawaii 31, New Mexico State 21