Arizona Wildcats vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Pick 8/24/19
Arizona Wildcats (0-0) vs. Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (0-0)
When: Saturday, August 24, 10:30 p.m. EST
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu
Point Spread: ARIZ -11
Total: O/U 70.5
Outlook For Week 1
Arizona coach Kevin Sumlin cannot afford to have things go south on him in this game. The Wildcats opened up last season with a loss at home to BYU and never really recovered, finishing 5-7 and missing out on a bowl game. Hawaii, in contrast, started well before hitting the meat of its schedule and finished with an 8-6 record and a loss to Louisiana Tech in the Hawaii Bowl. The Rainbow Warriors’ record does deceive a bit, however: six of their wins were against teams outside the top 100 in the nation.
How the Public is Betting the Arizona/Hawaii Game
The line has moved from Arizona -12 to Arizona -11 and the total is listed anywhere from 70 to 71 points making shopping for lines a must.
Bryce Wolma’s injured elbow is expected to be 100 percent at game time.
Eliki Tanuvasa’s eligibility is in question, and he is a question mark for this game.
More Week 1 Picks: Miami vs. Florida Point Spread Pick >>>
When Arizona Has the Ball
The good news for the Wildcats is that Khalil Tate returns under center. However, that might also be the bad news. Tate saw his touchdowns increase to 26 while his interceptions dropped to eight, a big positive, but as an overall player, he seemed to take a step backward last season. In 2018, he nearly gained as many yards through the ground as he did through the air under Rich Rodriguez and went 5-4 as a starter. In 2019, his overall yards dropped because although he added 1,000 yards to his passing numbers, he rushed for just 224 yards compared to 1,411 in 2018. He’s meant to be a dual-threat quarterback, but too often, he seemed unsure of himself last season and hesitant to do what made him a star as a sophomore.
That could be trouble this time around because his top three receiving targets from last year are all gone. Cedric Peterson returns the most experience from last season, but he caught just 18 passes last year. A lot depends on the running game, either J.J. Taylor establishing himself or Tate getting back to doing what he did best in 2018. Either outcome would go a long way toward making Arizona a top offense.
When Hawaii Has the Ball
Two things are true about Hawaii’s offense. Hawaii will move the ball, and Hawaii will put points on the scoreboard. That’s been the program’s MO for the past two decades, and Cole McDonald appears to be the latest hotshot Hawaii quarterback who can light it up after he threw for 3,875 yards last season despite a midseason foot injury.
But just like Tate, McDonald is also losing his top targets. John Ursua is now a Seattle Seahawk, and McDonald will try to replace his slot production by finding Cedric Byrd and JoJo Ward. Ward is the major wild card here: he averaged 17 yards a catch in 2018, and when he got involved in the offense, the Rainbow Warriors were usually victorious.
As for the running game, Hawaii isn’t going to bother running the ball very often. Fred Holly III was the team’s best back and managed a measly 468 yards for the entire season, in part because he was one of only two Rainbow Warriors (McDonald was the other) to get more than 100 carries for the season. Hawaii doesn’t feel much of a need to run the football, and that’s because they’ve had consistent success tossing the rock around.
Something has to give here. Both of these teams are 5-0 against the spread in their past five August football games. However, one thing might come into play here: Hawaii’s experience against the Pac-12. The Rainbow Warriors aren’t going to be worried about whether they can play with Arizona: they’ve covered in eight of their past ten matchups against Pac-12 opposition. The last time they played Arizona was a 2016 visit to Tucson, which the Wildcats won 47-28.
Cloudy weather is likely to be in the forecast, but it shouldn’t cool down the field too much: it’s expected to be a high of 90 degrees in Honolulu.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
It’s often an exaggeration to say that the first game of the season is desperation time for any team, but it’s not in this case. Arizona has to win this game and put up an impressive number of points, or Sumlin’s seat is going to get very hot in a hurry. The natives are restless in Tucson, and Sumlin has to make the most out of Tate’s senior season, or he’s not likely to get a third season in the desert.
Hawaii has high expectations for itself in the Mountain West, but the best team that the Rainbow Warriors beat last season was San Diego State. The Aztecs are a decent team, but Arizona should be the better squad here and should make up for last season’s mess. Give me the Wildcats to get off to a strong start in a game that should be full of points.