Arizona Wildcats vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Game Preview

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Joe Broback

Joe is a writer covering the NFL, NBA, NHL and college football. He also currently writes for SB Nation’s Underdog Dynasty, covering the American Athletic Conference since 2016. Joe enjoys collecting shoes, playing sports, and anything fitness related.
Joe Broback
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Florida versus Miami brings college football back to the world, but it doesn’t bring the entertainment that these two teams provide. The Arizona Wildcats struggled to find its footing under Kevin Sumlin, but appears to have figured a few things out. A few key aspects of their team must improve for a successful season, and they’ll be tested early against Hawaii.

The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors lacked an identity since the joined the Mountain West Conference in 2012. Any memories of Colt Brennan or Timmy Chang seemed to be distant ones with no signs of coming back. Then, Nick Rolovich took over the program. After going 10-16 in his first two seasons, Rolovich and his team hit their stride. An 8-6 season featured a high-fliying offense full of quick passes, deep shots, and highlight reel runs. Their defense might need some work, but the offense is once again fun to watch.


How to watch: CBS Sports Network
Start Time: 9:30 PM CT
Line: Arizona -11
Location: Aloha Stadium (Honolulu, HI)


Hawii Rainbow Warriors to watch

QB Cole McDonald
RB Fred Holly III
WR Cedric Byrd
WR JoJo Ward
LB Solomon Matautia

Arizona Wildcats to watch

QB Khalil Tate
RB JJ Taylor
LB Colin Schooler
CB Lorenzo Burns
S Scottie Young Jr.

Why Hawaii wins

Hawaii finished ninth in passing yards per game last year, their highest ranking since they finished first in 2010. What contributed to that? Every full-time coach returned, the run-and-shoot offense, and a quarterback that fits the system. Cole McDonald proved he can distribute the ball to his playmakers, whether that’s through a quick screen or a deep pass.

McDonald returns two of his top receivers this year, and four of his five starting linemen. Hawaii’s in good hands offensively with McDonald running the show, but it comes down to their defense.

For as good as Hawaii’s offense was last year, the defense performed equally as bad. On average, Hawaii scored 30.8 points but allowed 35.1, which won’t win you many games. Nine starters return to a group that didn’t have many seniors. It’s a tough start to face the Arizona Wildcats and two other Pac-12 teams, but an improved defense will be vital.

Why Arizona wins

Kevin Sumlin inherited one of the best running quarterbacks in the country, and tried to change him. Khalil Tate rushed for 1,411 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2017, but only produced 224 yards and two touchdowns last year. Sumlin’s staff wanted Tate to work on his passing for his future, but it took away what makes him special.

Tate finished completing just 56% of his passes last year, though he did throw 24 touchdowns. With no proven star at receiver, replicating that strategy doesn’t appear to be the best idea. The Arizona Wildcats star had eight games rushing for more than 100 yards (including two games of 275+), and last year he produced none. Arizona’s struggles defensively don’t make life easy for the offense, but the Wildcats could be even more explosive if they let Tate run.

Prediction

This has the potential to be a shootout. The over/under on this game is 74, but could end much higher. Both offenses have tremendous potential to be explosive, and both defenses appear to have more questions than answers. Sumlin and his staff are already facing frustrations, so a loss here wouldn’t help. Tate versus McDonald provides the most entertainment in Week 0, and both could be dark horse Heisman candidates. Hawaii’s offense will give the Wildcats all they can handle, but it’s not enough to win. ARIZONA 38-35

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