The Rainbow Warriors are coming off an 8-6 year under fourth-year skipper Nick Rolovich, losing to Louisiana Tech in the appropriately named Hawaii Bowl.
Arizona had a disappointing first season under coach Kevin Sumlin, finishing 5-7 and missing out on a bowl game.
Hawaii is currently a 10.5-point home underdog to the Wildcats and the over-under is set at a whopping 71.5, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. Just for comparison, the Florida vs. Miami contest that kicked off the college football season boasted a modest 46-point total. It’s obvious that fireworks are expected in this one.
Here are somethings to know and advice on who to back in this one.
Hawaii vs. Arizona Preview, Stats & Need to Knows
Hawaii becomes a popular pick when at home because the travel visiting teams need to embark on to play the game on a rock in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Even for a Pac-12 team like Arizona, it’s a nearly 3,000-mile trip.
The Rainbow Warriors’ offense is the high-flying run and shoot, which emphasizes receiver motion and on-the-fly adjustments of routes. It leads to some big numbers in the passing game, which quarterback Cole McDonald has enjoyed.
McDonald is a 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior who finished eighth nationally in passing yards (3,875) and sixth in passing touchdowns (36) last season. With no real running game to speak of for the ‘Bows, he threw for over 300 yards seven times and went over 400 three times times during the team’s 2018 campaign.
However, he did lose his top target in John Ursua, who led the nation in receiving touchdowns and was selected by the Seattle Seahawks in the seventh round of the NFL Draft.
“The scary part about this guy, McDonald, is he had a great year last year … and he’s coming back this year bigger and stronger, so they’ve got some weapons offensively and defensively, but I think they’ve got a quarterback that’s as good as probably there is in the country,” Sumlin said of McDonald.
For Arizona, the key will be running back J.J. Taylor, who ran for 1,434 yards last year to help Wildcats average 202.4 rushing yards per game, tops in the Pac-12. The Wildcats also have quarterback Khalil Tate, who generated Hesiman buzz prior to his junior season, which fell flat due to injuries.
“He’s one of the fastest human beings I’ve ever seen on a football field,” Sumlin said of Tate on College Sports Sunday on SiriusXM.
Both defenses gave up big time yardage last season. Hawaii ranked near the bottom giving up 460.8 yard per game, while Arizona wasn’t much better, letting up 429.2 yards per contest.
Hawaii vs. Arizona Pick & Prediction
Arizona had a disappointing year last year and will be looking to start this one out on the right foot in the Aloha State. Sure, it’s not the normal road game, but the Wildcats have something to prove in a rare spot as one of only two games in “Week 0.”
Expect Arizona to control the pace of the game with their ground attack against a Hawaii defense that has been vulnerable to big plays in the past, even against lesser opponents than Arizona. There is simply much more talent on the Arizona side of the ball, no matter how many times McDonald slings it.
Pick: Arizona -10.5
Over-under: Over 71.5
Score prediction: Arizona 49, Hawaii 28