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Hawaii @ San Diego State: Three things to look for, Prediction

The Rainbow Warriors hope to find improvement coming out of the bye

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


Location: San Diego, California (Snapdragon Stadium)

Date/Time: Saturday, October 8th at 4:30 p.m. (Hawaii Time)

Television: CBS Sports Network

Streaming: You’ll need a cable log-in, but the game will be streamed here.

Radio: ESPN Honolulu

Head-to-Head: Hawaii trails in the series with 11 wins, 23 losses, and 2 ties. San Diego State has won the last two games in the series, winning last year’s contest 17-10 at Clarence T.C. Ching Complex. Arguably the height of frustration with Bo Graham’s offense. It’s been a one-sided series, the Rainbow Warriors winning only 4 times in the last 21 meetings between the programs.

Three things to look for:

1. Will the offense improve coming out of the bye?

Frustration has been mounting in the Hawaii football communities on social media and message boards with the state of the Rainbow Warrior offense. Hawaii has bounced back and forth between quarterbacks Brayden Schager and Joey Yellen, with neither throwing a touchdown pass until Schager broke a four-game skid against New Mexico State, albeit when the game was already out-of-reach.

Over the years, Hawaii teams have won and lost, experienced highs and lows, but UH fans are not accustomed to bad offense. Who is to blame? Coach Chang? Offensive coordinator Ian Shoemaker? The lack of talent? What is Hawaii trying to achieve on offense? This doesn’t look like the run-and-shoot, Shoemaker’s Eastern Washington offense, or even Jay Norvell’s air-raid.

There will be reinforcements arriving this week with wide receivers Zion Bowens, Chuuky Hines and Koali Nishigaya returning from injuries. This should give Hawaii the option to throw it more, maybe even return to more run-and-shoot concepts.

San Diego State’s 3-3-5 defense is not what the doctor ordered coming out of the bye, but Hawaii fans will be hoping for a more organized, effective offense with an identity entering conference play.

2. Can Hawaii’s defense frustrate the slumping Aztec offense?

When San Diego State’s name shows up on the schedule, defense and a strong running game are what comes to mind. Hawaii enters this game sitting at 130th in rush defense nationally. Yikes. On paper, the Aztecs star running back Jordan Byrd should feast. Maybe he will.

...but this has been a strange season for the Aztecs. San Diego State is accustomed to pushing, and even defeating Power 5 programs from the Pac-12. It’s become routine watching them beat these teams. So, when the Aztecs were blown out by both Arizona and Utah, teams they defeated in 2021, it raised an eyebrow. The passing game was supposed to improve under transfer quarterback Braxton Burmeister. It did not, and the Aztecs passing attack reached embarrassing lows, even for a program low-key known for poor QB play despite the program’s success the last 10 years.

Saturday’s blowout loss to Boise State was the breaking point. San Diego State fired offensive coordinator Jeff Hecklinski and hired former star quarterback Ryan Lindley to fix that quarterback room.

Quarterback Will Haskell transferred. Braxton Burmeister left the Boise State with a concussion, we’ll see if he plays against Hawaii. Boise State also seriously hurt Kyle Crum. The Aztecs were forced to play 4th-string QB Liu Aumavae. Disaster. Burmeister did practice this week for the Aztecs.

Yes, the Warrior defense has been really bad so far. Jordan Byrd will be a handful, but with the Aztec passing attack in shambles, can Hawaii key on the run and slow down the Aztec offense? One can hope.

3. Not your father’s San Diego State defense

Brady Hoke kicked off this successful era of San Diego State football a decade ago, and Rocky Long took the program to new heights winning conference championships and winning 10+ games a year. The Aztec rushing attack played a role, but the unique 3-3-5 defense dominated annually. That’s the Aztec brand.

Which makes it all the more jarring to see the Aztec defense rank 94th nationally in total defense through 5 games. Their rush defense ranks a shocking 98th nationally. On Saturday against Boise State, the Aztecs defense shined in the first half. In the second half, Boise State adjusted to running a pure read-option offense with freshman quarterback Taylen Green. The Broncos hardly threw the ball at all but thrived in a 35-point explosion with a shockingly effective rushing attack. The Broncos had two rushers over 100 rushing yards, and almost had a third reach that threshold. Against San Diego State?! The offense is catching the anger of Aztec fans, but the defense has quietly off to a shocking start to the season too.

Yes, it very much remains to be seen if Hawaii can exploit any of this with Dedrick Parson and the freshmen running backs, but it’s clear this SDSU defense isn’t as dominant as we’re accustomed to.


San Diego State, despite all the drama of this past week, is close to a 20-point favorite against Hawaii. A sobering reminder of where things stand with the Rainbow Warriors. There’s no hiding from the fact that this Hawaii team is devoid of the talent UH fans are used to seeing at Manoa. Hopefully the reinforcements at wide receiver make a difference on offense, but it’s hard to see things drastically improving.

I think Hawaii has a chance to beat Nevada and Colorado State, but until we start to see improvement on both sides of the ball, I won’t be picking them to win games like this one. One can only talk themselves into good things for so long, eventually UH needs to start showing improvement. Give me Warriors 9, Aztecs 24.