The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors make the long trek all the way from the islands to the east coast to open the season against the UMass Minutemen. It actually isn’t the furthest trip for a team this week, as Stanford and Rice are out down under in Australia to open the 2017 college football season. If there’s a time to get the long trip out of the way for Hawaii, it’s the opening game.
They’ve had more than enough time to plan and get their bodies ready for the time change. Often the Rainbow Warriors enjoy it when teams have to fly all the way out to Honolulu, but in this case, the tables have turned and Hawaii will be at the furthest destination possible on the map.
This one kicks off at 6:00 EST which could have been much worse for Hawaii. It will be noon in Honolulu, so it’s not as bad as a 1:00 EST start for them. This is the conclusion of a home-and-home series, as UMass travelled to Hawaii last season for a 46-40 win. The long trek didn’t bother the Minutemen, we’ll see if Hawaii feels the same way on Saturday. Hawaii opened up last season with a couple of heavyweights. California dispatched them for a 51-31 final score, and then Michigan pummeled them for a 63-3 score at the Big House.
Hawaii was completely outmanned vs the Golden Bears and Wolverines. From a size and strength point of view, the Rainbow Warriors just got absolutely bullied at Michigan. The travel schedule didn’t help any either, with that one an early start in Ann Arbor. Hawaii concluded the year with a 52-35 win against Middle Tennessee State in the Hawaii Bowl.
It was a nice way to finish the season in front of their home fans. The win was their first bowl win since 2006, which came against Arizona State. However, between then they had an appearance in the Sugar Bowl. And even though they got blasted by Georgia, it was a major accomplishment for the school.
Hawaii gets their starting quarterback this season, a guy who had his moments in 2016 but was far too inconsistent to get the offense to the level they wanted to be. After lighting Middle Tennessee State up, and his first-year under his belt, Dru Brown will look to get another level in 2017. It can’t get much worse for UMass, as they look to erase a 2-10 year and find a bowl game. Get our free Hawaii vs. UMass NCAAF pick below.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs. UMass Minutemen Betting Odds:
Hawaii +2 (-110)
@UMass -2 (-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Hawaii vs. UMass Pick:
Dru Brown returns under center for Hawaii, after what most would consider a quality year for a freshman. Brown connected for 2,488 yards and 19 touchdowns with 7 interceptions. From a freshman without the best playmakers around him, Brown had a good year. He does have a little scrambling ability, and can run the option if a play calls for it.
Brown rushed for 306 yards and 4 touchdowns to help Hawaii get to a bowl. He is armed with a talented quarterback in the backfield next to him in senior runner Diocemy Saint Juste. Saint Juste rushed for 1,006 on a 6.1 yard average per carry. If Brown can improve from his freshman year, I think Hawaii could have something brewing on offense.
The defense, on the other hand, must make major strides forward if the team wants to compete. The Rainbow Warriors allowed an average of 455 yards per game, equating to 104th in the nation. There is a slew of talent gone this season, including highly recruited Jamie Tago who was kicked off the team for violating team rules. Hawaii may have stability at the safety position, but elsewhere is looking bare. If Hawaii wants to find success, I believe it’s going to come up to the offense finding 35+ points a game every week.
The Minutemen had issues of their own on defense a year, as they allowed just about the same amount of yardage as Hawaii with 453 surrendered per game. Both programs allowed over 35 points per game as well. They will have experience at linebacker and get Pitt transfer Patrick Amara Jr. in the secondary.
UMass have a couple of capable starters, but will probably lean more heavily on Andrew Ford. Ford hit for 26 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, after taking over for Ross Comis in Week 3. Comis tore his ACL and didn’t return, with Ford seizing the opportunity. Both will be happy to have Adam Breneman back at tight end, who hauled in 808 yards and 8 touchdowns a year ago. Breneman is a Nittany Lion transfer who is looking to get on the radar of NFL teams this year. The spread is a tough pick in this one. I can make an argument for both sides. With that said, I recommend a pick on the OVER for this Hawaii vs. UMass matchup in Amherst on Saturday.
PICK: OVER 62 (-105)