The 2019 college football schedule kicks off on Saturday with two games on the schedule. It’s a big showdown in the early game, as we get a rivalry game right off the bat. The Florida Gators and Miami Hurricanes will meet at Camping World Stadium in Orlando to open the season. Arizona and Hawaii are miles and miles away on Oahu at Aloha Stadium. It isn’t a vacation for the Wildcats, they’re there for a business meeting with the Rainbow Warriors of Hawaii.
Kevin Sumlin goes into his second season at Arizona with heftier expectations on his back. With Sumlin, it isn’t like the cupboard was empty for him when he came to Arizona. Rich Rod was fired because of apparent inappropriate conduct with staffers of the football program.
There was talent for Sumlin when he got there. Most notably, Sumlin had a quarterback who was just coming off a monster season. Khalil Tate broke out and made a name for himself in 2017 with his electric speed. However, the transition to a new offense has been difficult for Tate and company. Nothing looked smooth for Tate and the offense last season. It was clear that Sumlin wanted to keep him in the pocket more often and it was met with mixed reviews.
They had to fight for yardage when it looked so easy the year before with Rich Rodriguez at the helm. Also hampering Tate might have been an injury he suffered late in 2017. It wasn’t mentioned much, but that could have very well been holding him back as well. We haven’t seen him play as fast since getting injured. Ultimately, Arizona went 5-7 and failed to reach a bowl game. Tate will be back in the saddle for his senior season with more Heisman hype.
Hawaii did a lot right in 2018. They finished with a respectable record of 8-6. The start of the season was an impressive show, as they started 3-0 and Cole McDonald was throwing darts to his targets. McDonald is back for Hawaii, as is pretty much everyone else on the 2018 roster. The Rainbow Warriors aren’t Mountain West contenders yet, but an improved record and bowl win would be welcome. Head below for our free Arizona vs. Hawaii pick in Week 1 of the college football schedule.
Arizona Wildcats vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors NCAAF Week 1 Betting Odds:
Betting odds provided by bovada.lv
Arizona vs. Hawaii Pick:
With plenty of talent returning, expectations follow that as well. Maybe not on the national scene no one cares about Hawaii football or what they do this season, but there is a dedicated fanbase in Hawaii who love Rainbow Warrior football. They want something to celebrate, and while they didn’t win a bowl last season, it could be a stepping stone for them.
McDonald proved last season that they were would be no quarterback competition this past spring. While a lot of schools still have uncertainty about their starter in late August, Hawaii is locked in with McDonald.
McDonald came through early last season. He went for over 500 yards in his debut in the 2018 opener against Colorado State. In the first four weeks of the season, McDonald racked up 15 touchdown passes with 0 interceptions. UNLV was the only game in the regular season that he threw for more interceptions in a game than touchdowns.
The game I was most impressed by was a 31-30 win in overtime against a solid San Diego State defense. McDonald threw for 452 yards with 3 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. On the season, he totalled 40 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.
Along with their starting QB, Hawaii have 17 other starting players returning to play in 2019. Note that is more than any other team in the Mountain West. The one guy they will miss is Jahlani Taivai at linebacker, but other than that, the Rainbow Warriors are well prepared pretty well all over the field.
Arizona allowed 32.6 points per game defensively, which must improve drastically in 2019. There is some talent there for this matchup, but little depth behind a few standouts. Expect Hawaii to move the ball with an experienced offense.
The focal point of Arizona is going to be Khalil Tate and J.J. Taylor in the backfield. Taylor rushed for 1,434 yards and 6 touchdowns on a 5.6-yard average. And while Tate was not as effective last season, he still passed for 26 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. His completion percentage must improve, though. A 56.3 percent completion rate is not good enough in the Pac-12.
Hawaii will struggle at times with Tate and Taylor. Defending the air and ground with those two can be tricky, especially if Tate is feeling 100%. However, Hawaii have had months to prepare for them and they catch Arizona in their own backyard playing in a different time zone.
For a season opener, playing in Hawaii could be a bit of a distraction as well. Arizona go through the motions, and likely still win, but 11 points is a lot to lay against an experienced Hawaii squad on the road. Hawaii should be the more amped up team for this matchup, as they rarely get a time slot like this with no other games on. The points with the home squad looks like the play.