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

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The Warriors host the 2020 Mountain West champions for a pivotal conference matchup

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

HAWAII VS. SAN JOSE ST.

RWP = Rainbow Warrior Perspective. Vic Aquino will offer the San Jose State perspective for this game in a separate post.

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

Date/Time: Saturday, September 18th at 6:30 p.m. (Hawaii Time)

Television: FS1 (for real, a 12:30 a.m. ET national TV game!)

Streaming: TV subscribers should be able to watch on the Fox Sports app, or this link.

Radio: ESPN Honolulu

Head-to-Head: Hawaii leads the series 22-20-1. From 2001-2019, the Warriors played the Spartans 18 times and only lost 4 of those contests. A one-sided series. However, last season the Spartans won 35-24 in Honolulu on their path to ultimately winning the Mountain West, an accomplishment Hawaii has never attained. That game was moved to Honolulu because of COVID restrictions in San Jose, in case you’re wondering why the Spartans are making consecutive trips to Oahu.

Three things to look for:

1. Can Bo Graham’s offense keep up the momentum?

Losing assistants to Power 5 schools: it’s just part of life for a Group of 5 program. Hawaii was no different this past off-season, losing offensive coordinator G.J. Kinne to UCF after one season at Manoa. Head coach Todd Graham filled the vacancy with his son, Bo Graham. It didn’t take long for the cries of nepotism to materialize on the internet. As I stated back in the spring: this will only be a problem if Bo Graham’s offense stinks.

Well, after Week 0, the criticism increased in volume. Rightfully so, Hawaii was struggling to line up correctly, let alone score against UCLA. The last two weeks, however, have been more encouraging. Hawaii smoked Portland State to the tune of 573 total yards, but that can be dismissed because of the FCS opponent. What was more impressive was Hawaii posting 454 total yards against Oregon State, away from home. The Beavers keyed on the Warriors run game and offensive coordinator Bo Graham adjusted with a quality short passing game, and intermediate passing game. Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro finished with 366 passing yards. All considered, an encouraging performance.

This week, Bo Graham and his offense will be tested. San Jose State Defensive linemen Cade Hall and Viliami Fehoko are two key pieces in what might be the best defensive line in the Mountain West. Quarterback Nick Starkel and his array of weapons catch the attention of onlookers, and rightfully so, but the Spartans owning the line of scrimmage is what propelled them to champions status. The Spartans are likely to cause problems for the Warriors upfront, and coach Bo’s ability to call plays around that, much like he did against Oregon State, could prove pivotal in Hawaii’s chances to open Mountain West play with an upset victory.

2. Defense, seriously. What the hell.

C’mon, Hawaii Rainbow Warrior defense. You guys are making me like stupid. After a strong 2020 season, under a defensive-minded head coach, it seemed as if an experienced and talented Hawaii defense was on the verge of turning a corner this fall. So far, not really. Yes, the level of competition has been tough, but I expected more. The numbers are just disastrous.

Through three games, the defense is conceding 475 yards per game. It’s not like one approach is gashing the Warriors either. They’re conceding 283 yards through the air per game, and 192 on the ground per game. Yikes. 101st nationally in rushing yards allowed, 113th in passing yards allowed. Against Portland State, the problem was the wide open passes allowed to the Viking’s receiving corps. That continued against Oregon State, but the Beavers ran the ball at will too. Not to pick on anyone in particular, but the Warrior linebackers missed quite a few tackles in Corvallis.

Bottom line: to this point, the defense hasn’t done anything well. Pass rush, rush defense, pass defense, nothing. A true surprise compared to the preseason hype. This week doesn’t get any easier with Nick Starkel coming to town.

I believe Chevan Cordeiro and the offense can win Hawaii this game, but only if the defense’s overall output improves to at least “average”. Adjustments are required, and they’ll need to find answers for missing Darius Muasau for the first half of the game. Mausau was penalized for targeting in the third quarter against Oregon State.

Can the defensive line/blitz put pressure on Starkel? Or will he cook in the pocket? The answer to that question is likely to be a big factor in whoever wins this game.

3. College football degenerates unite

Things are still pretty tense among Oahu-based Hawaii football fans right now. It looks like Hawaii will once again be the only FBS program playing football in front of empty bleachers. Well, willingly anyway. The COVID restrictions remain in place for the time being. The good news? The game is not being aired on Spectrum this week, it’ll be on FS1. How about that? The start time for the game is 12:30 a.m. EST, a nationally-televised time slot usually designated for the sketchiest infomercials.

College football Twitter was abuzz over the unusual matchup. Hawaii is famous for playing super late for mainland fans, but the games are typically relegated to apps, where fans can only watch on their phone or tablet. Not this week...

Rejoice, Hawaii fans. For one week, it appears you won’t have to purchase PPV for the Hawaii game. It’s available to all on FS1.

The West Division appears to be daunting. Fresno State took Oregon to the wire in Eugene, then watched the Ducks beat Ohio State at their place the following week. San Diego State obliterated Arizona on the road. Nevada beat Cal, appears to be a G5 power this fall. San Jose State, of course is the defending MWC champs. Saturday’s contest at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex is a pivotal matchup for Hawaii. Win, and the Warriors throw their hat in the ring for contention. Lose, and it’ll be tough sledding to really compete for the West Division title.

Bring your A-game, Warriors. The diehards of college football will be watching.

Prediction:

Last week, I gave the defenses of both Hawaii and Oregon State too much credit. The game was a shootout. I was in attendance, where fans had to be vaccinated in order to attend. I wish the city of Honolulu officials would follow that example instead of barring all fans.

This week figures to be an emotional game of sorts. San Jose State head coach Brent Brennan is the cousin of former Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan, who passed away this past summer.

Hawaii fans are irate over being unable to attend the game, and even local news anchor’s are starting to call out publicly over whether any of this makes sense. Off the field, emotions are high.

The Spartans are very good, and frankly don’t have any real, legitimate weakness. I think Hawaii’s offense is starting to find their form, but Victor Santa Cruz’s defense needs to improve this week if the Warriors want to win. Hawaii opened up a 4-point underdog, and it’s since grown to 7-points.

I believe in Cordeiro and company. The defense? Not so much. Give me Hawaii 24, San Jose State 34.