Hawaii’s home games often begin at midnight EST, so sportsbooks and college football odds boards sometimes list the games as occurring on the following “Sunday.”
But don’t worry, the Rainbow Warriors know better than to chop up their slender audience and make NFL fans change the channel. For all intent and purposes, the scrums in Halawa happen on Saturday night…even for New Yorkers.
Slender audience? Maybe among casual sports fans. But bettors love the bailout game, and will scrutinize a tight point spread on the FBS weekend’s final kickoff as Nevada visits the islands.
Who: Nevada Wolf Pack at Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
When: Sunday (Saturday night), October 21st, 12 AM EST
Where: Aloha Stadium, Halawa, HI
Lines: Nevada (+3) at Hawaii (-3) / O/U Total: (69)
The Rainbow Warriors, led by gun-slinger QB Cole McDonald, are off to a 6-2 record in 2018 and are 3-0 in conference play. McDonald ranks 2nd in the country with 2,348 passing yards and 26 TDs.
Hawaii often has a stellar passing attack for foes to contend with, but this year’s numbers are eye popping.
Junior wide-out John Ursua (all 5-11, 175 pounds of him) leads the nation with 890 receiving yards and 13 TDs in 8 games. Head Coach Nick Rolovich, a former Hawaii QB himself, has the offense rolling and the skill players clicking in unison. RB Dayton Furuta leads the team in rushing with 357 yards, but the squad is experimenting with devilish quick-hitting power runs and other tricks to further improve the ground game.
For as good as the offense has gotten at Hawaii, the defense is athletically limited and still tends to struggle. The Rainbow Warriors rank near the bottom of the FBS in rushing yards allowed and passing yards allowed, and the weaknesses showed in the recent loss to BYU.
The Cougars had 4 different players rush for a TD against the Warriors. 2 weeks ago the defense looked fine against Wyoming, but that’s largely because the Cowboys aren’t as skilled as BYU’s group.
Senior LB Jahlani Tavai leads the charge with 79 tackles, and Junior DL Kaimana Padello has 7 sacks on the season. If the Hawaii defense can hold opposing teams down just enough, their offense might help propel the program to a semi-major bowl bid in 2018-19.
The Nevada Wolf Pack began the season 3-4 and the team’s only FBS wins have been against struggling programs. The defense has had a rough season, ranking 103rd in points allowed 120th in passing yards allowed.
Senior LB Malik Reed is a leader with 5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for a loss. But head Coach Jay Norvell is an offensive coach by nature.
Predictably, the Nevada offense is better, ranking in the upper half of the FBS in both yards per game and points scored. Senior QB Ty Gangi throws for over 270 yards per game and has 13 TDs and 7 INTs on the season.
Freshman RB Toa Taua leads the backfield with 449 yards and 4 TDs, clearly a runner of the future for Wolf Pack fans to cherish. The 5-8, 205 pound California native figures to be leaned-on heavily against a Warrior team that gives up a lot on the ground.
More on what the favored Rainbow Warriors will contend with:
The Wolf Pack are off to a 3-4 start in 2018. They opened with a blowout win versus Portland State and a blowout loss at Vanderbilt. They closed non-conference play with a 37-35 win over Oregon State and a 63-44 loss at Toledo. Nevada opened conference play with a 28-25 win over the Air Force Falcons. The last two weeks Nevada fell short at home 21-3 to Fresno State and 31-27 to Boise State. Nevada was picked fourth out of six in the Mountain West’s West Division preseason poll.
The Wolf Pack were slightly behind UNLV while ahead of a distant fifth-placed Hawaii based off of media votes. Nevada had three players picked to the MW Preseason All-Conference Team: wide receiver McLane Mannix, linebacker Malik Reed and defensive back Dameon Baber. Las Vegas Sports books gave Nevada an over/under of six wins in 2018.
Nevada holds a 13-9 series lead over Hawaii after winning six out of the last seven matchups. Head Coach Nick Rolovich put a stop to a five-game losing streak against Nevada with a 38-17 win over the Wolf Pack in 2016. Nevada got the better of UH last year in a 35-21 loss for the Rainbow Warriors.
Holding Fresno State to 21 is actually kind of impressive, but the fact that a big, physical defense can shut down the seemingly-prolific Nevada attack is a cause for concern.
Hawaii is a team in revival-mode and should be able to handle the Wolf Pack. I would have set a line of (-5) or (-6) on the Rainbow Warriors given their fine record and excellent offense, but Vegas will do as it does.
Take advantage and pick the home team on the bailout kickoff this weekend.