Hawaii at UNLV: Week 12 CFB Betting Preview and Prediction

There have been unfortunate Twitter threads dedicated to shaming Hawaii-vs-visitor “bailout” gamblers in 2019, with ‘cappers making remarks like “you know it’s bad when you’re chasing at midnight and have to bet a Hawaii home game.”

That’s anti-Group-of-5 prejudice (and a healthy dose of ignorance) at work. You don’t have to be losing money to watch or gamble on the Rainbow Warriors, an exciting and unique FBS program. I’ve “chased” winning streaks with an extra “redeye” wager on UH.

But it hasn’t always been a barrel o’ fun to gamble on Hawaii this season. The team is 6-4 and bowl-eligible already, but the Rainbow Warriors are only 4-6 against the point spread.

That hasn’t stopped ATS gamblers from taking UH to cover against UNLV on the road this Saturday. The Las Vegas line for the Mountain West clash in Sin City has been moving slightly in the visitors’ direction.

Who: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at University of Nevada-Las Vegas Rebels

When: Saturday, November 16th, 4 PM EST

Where: Sam Boyd Stadium, Las Vegas, NV

Lines: UH (-7) at UNLV (+7) / O/U Total: (74)

Handicapping the Rebels and Rainbow Warriors at Sam Boyd Stadium

Wow. (74) is a big old whoppin’ Over/Under total, and it’s been rising since betting opened on Monday. Why are handicappers and high-rollers expecting a shoot-out?

For a start, Hawaii is capable of feasting on bad defenses. Since falling to Boise State and Air Force in back-to-back contests the Rainbow Warriors have averaged 40+ points in a 3-game sample size. In fact, over the last 2 contests – in which UH has gone 1-1 – it’s been back to an old familiar scenario for Nick Rolovich’s squad. The offense must dominate the game for the team to win, while the defense is a chaos-agent as opposed to a unit that can expect to earn 3-and-outs and get off the field quickly.

In fact, San Jose State scored on every possession last Saturday, but still lost to Hawaii 42-20:

It isn’t often that scoring on every possession results in a loss. But that’s what happened to San Jose State on Saturday night.  The Spartans had the ball eight times and scored on all eight — four touchdowns, four field goals. And lost 42-40. SJSU rolled up 497 yards, but gave up 512 to a Hawaii team with a freshman quarterback making his first start. Chevan Cordeiro accounted for five touchdowns — three by air, two by ground — and the Rainbow Warriors went home with the Dick Tomey Trophy, named for the man who coached at both Hawaii and San Jose State.

It was a bold decision for Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich to bench his junior quarterback Cole McDonald against San Jose State. But Cordeiro proved his coach right. Hawaii was stopped only twice in eight possessions, once on a fumble and once when it got the ball with 44 seconds left in the first half. “That kid was brilliant,” Brennan said. “I’ve watched him play in games here his entire (high school) career … He was fantastic. He was great throwing it, great running it and he’s obviously got command of what they do.” Extending plays with his legs, Cordeiro had 55 yards on 11 runs. He completed 23 of 31 passes for 309 yards, more than half of them coming on connections with JoJo Ward (7 catches for 170 yards, two TDs). On paper, the Spartans were five-for-five inside the red zone Saturday night. But in reality, having to settle for two field goals in those five tries wasn’t good enough against a Hawaii team that entered the game as the No. 12 offense in the nation.

I’m not surprised by Rolovich’s QB change. He’s got more than 1 – heck, more than 2 – quarterbacks who can do a fine job of operating the squad’s Run & Shoot attack. But the defense is a liability.

UNLV has been full of liabilities, suffering a 3-game losing streak since knocking-off Vanderbilt in October. The Rebels look like a team with below-average coaching and motivation – that’s nothing against the program in general but if you had to rank all 120+ FBS programs’ “intangibles” Nevada-Las Vegas would not be in the top half. Faced with a winnable road trip to Colorado State 2 weekends ago, the Rebels whiffed on an opportunity to stay alive in the bowl chase, giving-up 21 points in the 1st quarter and losing to CSU by 20. UNLV gained well over 400 yards in the contest but blunders and penalties led to no more than 3 points-scored by the 4th quarter.

QB Kenyon Oblad has been decent in spurts, but his supporting cast is fragile and the defense isn’t much better than Hawaii’s poor effort on D.

Prediction and Pick: Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at UNLV Rebels

Obviously, there’s a lot of sharp action on the Over. But I’m shy of taking Overs in games that might turn into blow-outs. Even a pass-happy coach like Rolovich won’t be shy to dial it down if Hawaii is leading by 21+ points.

This will be 1 of those evenings in which Hawaii’s overall team spirit and special-teams effort helps buoy the offense against a dead-in-the-water MWC opponent. The best pick is UH-to-cover (-7).

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