HAWAII VS. SAN DIEGO ST.
Location: Honolulu, Oahu (Clarence T.C. Ching Complex)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 14th at 5:00 p.m. (Hawaii Time)
Television: CBS Sports Network
Streaming: You’ll need a cable log-in, but the game will be here.
Radio: ESPN Honolulu
Head-to-Head: San Diego State leads the series 24-11-2, winning nine of the last eleven contests between the two programs. Hawaii nearly upset the Aztecs at Snapdragon Stadium last season, but a game-winning drive led by safety-turned-quarterback Jalen Mayden gave the Aztecs a 16-14 victory.
Spread: UH +5
Three things to look for:
1. Has the offensive line improved?
Hawaii exits the bye week refreshed and hopefully adding some names back to the depth chart after dealing with injuries in the first month of the season. They’ll need those reinforcements. The last time we saw the 2023 Rainbow Warriors, quarterback Brayden Schager was being jolted into the Allegiant Stadium turf by UNLV’s defense. The Rebels had far too much success getting to the Warriors’ quarterback, and while it’s unrealistic to think the bye week magically solved the offensive line problem, it’s paramount that Hawaii start to show some improvement in this category.
Hawaii ranks 123rd-nationally in sacks allowed, conceding 4.17 sacks per game. Astounding. The dead horse has been beaten, but it’s the single-biggest issue for Hawaii football as of the moment: the offensive line needs to play better. The run-and-shoot cannot shoot if Schager continues to get smoked every other play.
2. San Diego State is in crisis
The Aztecs come to Clarence T.C. Ching Complex on a four-game losing streak and the vibes are bad, folks. San Diego State football underwhelmed in 2022, so the overall results in 2023 aren’t completely shocking, but after a summer of supposedly being on the brink of joining the Pac-12, the Pac-12, uh...died. Disappointment and high-ticket prices at home games have led to a decline in present fan support, and with it the team has struggled mightily.
After narrowly defeating Ohio and Idaho State, the Aztecs have lost to UCLA, Oregon State, Boise State, and capped off the four-game losing streak by being thoroughly destroyed by Air Force. The 12-2 season in 2021 feels like five years ago.
The identity of San Diego State football has been dominant defense. Not good defense, dominant defense. Mind you, the schedule has been brutal, but the Aztecs sit at 116th-nationally in total defense entering this game. Can Hawaii exploit this? Not unless the offense has improved, but either way, Aztecs football is not where it should be.
3. Okay, what do they do well?
Do not get me wrong, but Aztecs are not devoid of talent. The secondary, while not as dominant as usual, still features several solid players. Safeties Cedarious Barfield and Marcus Ratcliffe are reliably two of the team’s top five tacklers, which doesn’t speak kindly to the defensive front, but expect those two to be involved in every play. Sophomore linebacker Zyrus Fiaseu, a rising young star from Las Vegas, leads the team in tackles with 39.
The typically raucous defensive front has only forced 8-sacks this season, placing the Aztecs 115th-nationally in that category. Oddly enough, tied with Hawaii.
Brace yourselves for yet another annoyingly elusive running quarterback. Hawaii fans remember Jalen Mayden all too well from last season. Mayden leads the Aztecs in passing and rushing this season. He’s their do-it-all factor on offense.
It hasn’t been pretty for San Diego State this fall. Still, while the likes of the Pac-12 and Air Force have hammered the Aztecs, that doesn’t mean Hawaii is necessarily capable of exploiting these weaknesses. The Warriors are still home underdogs.
Hawaii entered the bye week needing to fix several problems and get healthy. Maybe they accomplish one or some of those tasks, but let’s be real: either way, this is turning out to be a rebuilding season. Air Force and Wyoming are flying high. Fresno State is really good. Even UNLV has made strides. Nobody came into 2023 saying, “This is it. This is Hawaii’s year!”
Keep that in mind in the coming months. There’s a decent chance this will be a rough ride. If the Warriors want any chance whatsoever of making a run to a bowl game, it involves winning this weekend. I expect a low-scoring game, and turnovers will be the difference. Give me Hawaii 13, San Diego State 19.