You’ve heard of late-night bettor’s “bail-out” opportunities on kickoffs at Hawaii. How about a “Sunday starter” game?
Hawaii’s Week 14 match-up with visiting Army will take place so late on Saturday evening in Halawa that east-coast fans will be tuning-into the 1st quarter on Sunday morning. But it’s Thanksgiving weekend, and leftovers are plentiful. Why not enjoy some pigskin until 4 in the morning and then wake up to more in the afternoon?
It helps that it’s a pair of intriguing teams set to do battle. Some dreary pairing of 4-7 programs wouldn’t be so hot as an overnight pastime. The Rainbow Warriors and Black Knights have each flirted with big-deal success over the last 2 seasons, but it’s UH which has snuck-up on the Mountain West and on the FBS in 2019.
Seasoned fans might divide crucial contests into 3 tiers of watchability – Power-5 championships, mid-major championships, and then OOC games involving the mid-majors. But remember that Group-of-5 programs are fighting each other for a much-smaller pie. There’s an awful lot at stake on Sunday morning (or Saturday night, depending on how close you are to Hawaii). Army will qualify-for or miss the postseason based on the outcome.
Who: Army Black Knights at Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
When: Sunday, December 1st, 12:30 AM EST
Where: Aloha Stadium, Halawa, HI
Lines: Army (+2.5) at UH (-2.5) / O/U Total: (54)
It shouldn’t be possible to win a division crown by playing poor defense, and Hawaii’s defense looked god-awful for much of 2019. The Rainbow Warrior offense – an electric modern version of the Run & Shoot – carried the team as usual in a must-win November game vs visiting SJSU. But a funny thing happened after that. UH got stingy on D.
After holding UNLV and San Diego State to less than 20 combined points over the last 8 quarters, Hawaii has now won 3 straight, and has earned a spot in the MWC Championship against Boise St. on December 7th. CB Cortez Davis is getting a lot of hype following a terrific pick-6 against the Rebels, but it’s an improved front-7 and quality run defense sparking the turnaround.
Hawaii ends up evenly-matched with service academies much of the time. In last season’s meeting, Army QB Kelvin Hopkins Jr. led a game-winning drive in the final minute to beat the Warriors 28-21. Hopkins comes into Week 14 off of a monster game against VMI last week in which he ran for 208 yards on 16 carries in a 47-6 victory.
A Flexbone rushing attack proved difficult for Hawaii to stop in the Warriors’ 56-26 loss to Air Force. The Falcons ran all over the Rainbows that day – to the tune of 353 yards. But even though facing the Flex (known on TV as “the triple option”) is a very different scenario than the host defense had against SDSU last week or UNLV previously, there’s no denying Hawaii’s enhanced physicality and energy-level at the LOS can help create negative plays for Army’s offense. That’s like kryptonite to a desperate academy team trying to get to 6-6.
It’s senior night at Aloha Stadium, and with the West clinched already, we can expect to see the UH upperclass get plenty of run. The offense has sputtered a bit over the last couple of weeks to go with the improvement on defense, but Cole McDonald is still starting games w/ the option to be pulled for other fine talents occasionally. QB stats are off the hook at Hawaii and deceiving to look at sometimes, but the Warriors averaged more than 5 yards-per-carry on the ground against San Diego State, an important signal of health and game-control ability.
It was redshirt freshman Chevan Cordeiro who led the winning 3rd-quarter drive against the Aztecs, and word from upstairs is that the QB could be part of a 2 or even 3-man rotation on Saturday night. Hawaii has the numbers at quarterback to make that happen and not skip a beat on offense.
It’s promising for Hawaii to think about how Army’s defense could be exploited. The Black Knights struggled in mid-season after losing a key game to Michigan, falling to underdogs like Georgia State and Western Kentucky. Jeff Monken’s defense couldn’t tackle Spartan WRs in a 34-29 loss to San Jose State. But the unit may get some help from Mother Nature this weekend.
Wind is expected to whip across the field, or otherwise I’d have a mind to recommend the Over (54). Hawaii’s defense ultimately is what it is – the starters have taken-advantage of flawed offenses over the last 2 weeks, but a 2-deep test against a dynamic attack for 4 quarters will find the UH defense giving up 3-6 touchdowns like usual. Meanwhile, Army has little hope of stopping an elite MWC passing game at this point – except for the weather factor.
Army will be happy to run the ball all night and try to control the proceedings. Hawaii, meanwhile, won’t be able to throw deeply and accurately as often as usual. The result will be an amped-up Hawaii defensive line trying to man-up against a driving Black Knights side with the scrum on the line in the 4th quarter – and there won’t be a hundred points on the board.
Take the Under (54) and trust in the meteorologist for an overnight winner.