Location: Clarence T.C. Ching Complex, Honolulu
Date/Time: Saturday, September 18th @ 9:30 PM PST
Broadcast: Fox Sports 1
Radio: KTRB (860 AM, San Francisco)
Head-to-head: Hawaii leads the overall series 22-20-1 over San Jose State. The lone tie was back in 1991.
Spartan head coach Brent Brennan’s only win so far in four tries against the Rainbow Warriors was last year’s 35-24 triumph in Honolulu, while on their way to their first MWC title.
The rivalry factor
Hawaii probably has more rivals than most Mountain West teams. Perhaps it’s a product of being 3,000 miles away or perhaps it’s the angst from a history of oppression that needs to be paid back.
Whatever the case may be, that warrior mentality is seen and felt in all sports in Hawaii down to the youngest.
Whatever the case may be for either team, it never seems to matter how well each team may or may not be performing in a given season, who’s on the roster or who has home field advantage.
Expect a shootout every time
2017: A 37-26 ‘Bow win at Aloha Stadium
2018: A 44-41 ‘Bow win at CEFCU Stadium
2019: A 42-40 ‘Bow win in Honolulu
2020: A 35-24 Spartan win in Honolulu
“It’s always been an incredible football game,” said Brennan when asked of the high scoring games. “Every year that I’ve been a part of it, it’s always been a four-quarter game. Historically, if you look way back, each program has had good offensive teams in the past, so maybe that speaks to why those numbers are like that.”
The current line favors the Spartans at -6.5 and the over/under is at 61.5.
In last year’s championship run, the Spartans were only favored to win by a field goal or less. So this year is another single possession difference.
“I just know that watching these guys on tape that they’re four-quarter, play your butts off all freakin’ game, that you have to be ready for,” emphasized Brennan. “However the score ends up, things will take care of itself. We just gotta be ready for another great, epic battle with Hawaii.”
Brennan went on to describe going back to Hawaii for a third consecutive year as a treat. With the game being on campus this time around, it may prove to be a bigger blast from the past for Brennan.
A good guess is Hawaii’s a unique and special place for football. Besides the tropical breezes and the tropical climate, Brennan’s own unique ties to the region are many: being a graduated assistant in 1998 with the ‘Bows, the late Dick Tomey was a Brennan mentor who coached the ‘Bows for 10 years and, of course, his blood-ties to the late Hawaii QB legend Colt Brennan. The Dick Tomey trophy should be near and dear to his heart as well.
For the rest of us, the math looks to factor in the rivalry dynamics yet again.
What to expect for the Spartans
Expect Hawaii’s QB Chevan Cordeiro to be their main man, as all good things run through him on offense. One of Cordeiro’s strengths is buying time and rightly so given the pressure he’s been facing from opposing defenses.
On defense, there are still high expectations for the ‘Bows – though it has been known of late for spotting fast starts to the opposition. Last year on the ‘Bows, the Spartans started extremely fast with an early 21-0 lead. Expect ‘Bows head coach Todd Graham to dial up some pride, so that doesn’t happen again.
All in all, the Spartans are familiar with everything that is Hawaii football. There should be some pressure on San Jose to not just beat the spread, but ideally, win convincingly, especially in such a rival game.
As Brennan describes, expect a full four quarter game to decide this one in front of a Hawaii home crowd of zero with COVID cases surging again.
Why the Spartans should win
There’s enough body of work from the last two games from the Spartans to know what to expect Saturday. The Spartan defense has played well and have been consistent. In last year’s match with the ‘Bows, they were punishing.
On offense, running back Tyler Nevens and Kairee Robinson lacerated the Bow D for almost 300 yards on the ground, when Nevens tallied 152 yards and Robinson 111 yards. After that showing last year, the Spartans made it known then that putting a run game on Hawaii was a focus. The Spartan offense will certainly continue to poke and prod a potentially suspect Bow defense Saturday.
QB Nick Starkel is who he is and expects to get his passing yardage in by spreading the wealth. In two games, Starkel’s averaging 351 passing per game. The 30-7 loss to USC belies the fact the Spartans were only down one score until their fourth quarter drop off (perhaps a Spartan win could have sent then USC head coach Clay Helton packing a week earlier?).
OC Kevin McGiven has also shown more and more each week. Expect more and more new wrinkles as the season progresses.
Hawaii is who Hawaii is and will make a serious game of it, especially at home, and especially if they don’t show up with an initial porous defense. Anytime Cordeiro plays at home, there’s always a chance for the ‘Bows.
A one possession Spartan win prediction by the bean counters feels right, which should be the least expectation.
ESPN-HNL-SJS-2021.mp3 - Listen to a San Jose State Hawaii pre-game discussion with ESPN Honolulu.