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RWP: Hawaii vs. Colorado State: Three things to look for, Prediction

Rainbow Warriors host cross-divisional opponent for Senior Night

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 24 New Mexico Bowl Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

HAWAII VS. COLORADO STATE

RWP = Rainbow Warrior Perspective

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

Date/Time: Saturday, November 20th 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: Colorado State leads the series 15-10. Two old WAC adversaries, Hawaii played the Rams every season from 1981-1997 before the original Mountain West teams broke off. Hawaii lost seven straight games to the Rams from 1997-2017, and then randomly upset the Rams in Ft. Collins, a 2018 Week 0 win 43-34. Cole McDonald’s breakout game, first game Hawaii broke out the island chain helmets. The two programs haven’t played since.

Three things to look for:

1. Goodbye to senior class

Saturday evening at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex will be Senior Night for the 2021 Hawaii Warriors. Having lost to UNLV and nixed the possibility of bowl eligibility, we know for sure this will be the last UH home game islanders can see in-person until the home opener against Vanderbilt on August 27th, 2022.

The 2021 football season didn’t go as planned for the Warriors. Most over/under totals for wins had Hawaii exactly on 6 wins this fall. They sit at 4 with two games remaining, so Hawaii has slightly underwhelmed based on neutral expectations, and underwhelmed thoroughly to the Hawaii fans who hoped this team could parlay the success of 2020 into a surprise 2021 season. The second year slump strikes Todd Graham, just like it did June Jones, Greg McMackin, etc.

With that said, Hawaii will honor many seniors on Saturday. If possible, I’d encourage fans that can attend to do so. Many of these graduating Warriors contributed to the 2019 team that will go down as one of Hawaii’s best ever teams. 10 wins, first Hawaii team to win the West Division. First ever appearance in the Mountain West championship. Defeated the Zach Wilson-led Brigham Young Cougars in the Hawaii Bowl, also defeated two Power 5 foes. It was a special group, and these exiting seniors deserve applause.

Below is a breakdown of the current senior situation. I might be off on a player or two, but this is the general picture. COVID-19 rules complicate matters, but these are the Warriors likely to be honored Saturday evening. It might be your last chance to see them play in-person.

2021 super seniors, these players have run out of eligibility and for sure won’t be back in 2022:

QB Kamali’i Akina, LB Payton Awaya, DB Chima Azunna, DB Colby Burton, WR Aaron Cephus, DB Cortez Davis, Eugene Ford, LB Quentin Frazier, OL Kohl Levao, DL Djuan Matthews, OL Gene Pryor, WR Jared Smart, DL Derek Thomas, DL Pita Tonga, DL John Tuitupou, WR Calvin Turner Jr.

2021 regular seniors, also known as the players that technically can play one more year of college football because of the COVID exception, the question remains if 1.) they want to keep playing and 2.) Hawaii/Todd Graham enable them to do so. I’m guessing some of these players will be back (particularly starters), some may not:

LB Penei Pavihi, LB Jeremiah Pritchard, DB Khoury Bethley, WR Zion Bowens, DL Zacchaeus McKinney, TE Kolby Wyatt, LB Logan Taylor, RB Dior Scott, DB Leonard Lee, DB Donovan Dalton, RB Dedrick Parson, TE Hekili Keliiliki, LB Noa Kamana, DL Justus Tavai, OL Solo Vaipulu, DL Blessman Ta’ala, OL Ra Elkington, OL Stephan Bernal-Wendt, OL Micah Vanterpool, OL Ilm Manning, OL Austin Hopp, WR Grey Ihu, TE Caleb Phillips, DL Mason Mataafa, DL Alema Kapoi

2. Misery loves company: the Colorado State Rams

Hawaii enters Saturday’s contest disappointed, with most goals for the 2021 season out of reach. The same can be said for Colorado State. The Rams opened the 2021 season by losing by 19 points to an FCS team. A really good FCS team, but an FCS team nonetheless. They followed that loss up by losing to Vanderbilt.

The Rams responded well midseason, defeating Toledo, playing then 5th-ranked Iowa close, and beating San Jose State and New Mexico. A stout defense, and a quality QB, RB, TE trio seemed to be turning the corner.

Then the field goal debacle at Utah State happened. Then they blew a double-digit lead against Boise State. Followed that up by allowing the defunct Wyoming offense run all over them, 359 yards in total. Last week added to the misery, a two touchdown loss to Air Force.

Don’t be fooled, the Rams have plenty of good players. Quarterback Todd Centeio has 2,246 passing yards and 430 rushing yards, the quality dual-threat quarterback. Running back David Bailey has 651 rushing yards and 8 touchdowns this fall, and can be a tough to bring down.

Tight End Trey McBride has 919 receiving yards this season. Mel Kiper has him listed as the top tight end option for the 2022 NFL Draft. He’ll, without a doubt, frustrate the Warriors on Saturday. He can’t be stopped.

The Rams’ front seven has been very impressive at times this season, not so much in recent weeks. Linebacker Cam’Ron Carter has 6 sacks, and defensive end Scott Patchan has 7 sacks. The Rams rank 13th-nationally in Team Sacks.

Colorado State did rank highly in rushing defense. They now rank 85th-nationally in that category. Playing Wyoming/Air Force back-to-back will do that. Colorado State also ranks 11th in passing yards allowed. The defense can be a strength when it’s not banged up, or losing the will to play. If the Rams want to fight Hawaii on Saturday, they certainly have the players to do it. The question at this point is whether they want to.

3. Another freaking elite punter

If you follow Mountain West football, you know superstar punter Matt Araiza of the San Diego State Aztecs has been a celebrity name in the college game this fall. He’s been featured in The Athletic, ESPN, you name it.

...and Colorado State punter Ryan Stonehouse must be punching air in the process. Araiza leads college football with an astounding 52.25 per punt average. Insane. Ryan Stonehouse ranks 2nd-nationally, with 51.74 yards per punt. You hear that, Araiza? Less than a yard separate the two, yet Stonehouse feels like a forgotten star in the special teams discourse.

Well, we see you, Ryan. He’s a force, and will annoy Hawaii on Saturday. The Rams flip the field and often thanks to Ryan Stonehouse. An elite punter, a veteran-laden defense filled with playmakers and an offense with the best tight end in the college game. I’m starting to see why Colorado State fans are angry.

Anyways, sorry Warriors fans. Another special punter awaits.

Prediction:

Needless to say, Hawaii’s loss to UNLV is the lowest point of the Todd Graham era. It was jarring to see a once proud Hawaii offense struggle to move the ball against a bad UNLV defense. The discussion about what needs to happen with certain coaching assistants has begun, but for now attention is on finishing the season strong.

Hawaii opened as a 2-point home underdog against Colorado State. Both teams have struggled mightily of late. The Rams are more talented in my opinion, as evidenced by the Rams being road favorites despite a 4-game losing streak. Still, the Rams are find ways to lose games of late. I expect another defensive grind, and a turnover or two will decide the winner. I hope it’s Hawaii, this group of seniors deserves a positive conclusion in front of the home fans. Give me Hawaii 21, Colorado State 20.