Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs. BYU Cougars Pick 12/24/19
Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (9-5 SU, 7-7 ATS) vs. BYU Cougars (7-5 SU, 4-8 ATS)
When: Tuesday, Dec. 24, 8 p.m.
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu
Point Spread: HAW +1.5/BYU -1.5 (GTBets)
Total: O/U 64
This match isn’t going to be quite the home game that it appears on paper for Hawaii, as BYU is also very popular on the islands and will bring a sizable contingent of fans to Honolulu. Hawaii’s offense hasn’t been as explosive as of late as the schedule has gotten more difficult, but the Rainbow Warriors have also shown that unlike in previous years, they have a defense that can keep them in the game when the offense doesn’t blow opponents out of the water.
BYU has the opposite problem, as it’s got to show that it can still play against good teams after the schedule got really soft over the final month of the season. That’s the problem with true independence: it doesn’t give you much in the way of options when the final month rolls around, and everyone is either playing conference games or rivalries. BYU now plays its main rivals early in the year, which left the Cougars a final month of Liberty, Idaho State, Massachusetts, and San Diego State — the last of which BYU lost to. The Cougars had won five straight before that loss to the Aztecs, but they haven’t faced a quality opponent since Utah State. Do they remember how to raise their game to that level?
How the Public is Betting the Hawai’i/BYU Game
The line has slipped a half-point from opening at BYU -2, and the total has predictably increased a full point to its current level.
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Hawai’i: Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro is questionable with a leg injury.
BYU: Defensive lineman Bracken El-Bakri is questionable with a leg injury while running back Emmanuel Esukpa is questionable with a foot issue.
When Hawai’i Has the Ball
Think that Hawai’i is all about points? Think again. The Rainbow Warriors have proven themselves capable of winning in a defensive struggle, as they’ve failed to top 21 points in three of their past four games, but managed to win two of them. That said, despite the recent struggles, this is still a team that prefers to light it up, as Cole McDonald threw it 465 times this season for 3,642 yards. Hawai’i can run the ball by giving it to Miles Reed, but Plan A and Plan B are always going to be McDonald’s arm.
That’s not always a good thing. McDonald managed to throw for 29 touchdowns this season, but he also tossed 14 picks and showed a lack of decision-making ability, leading to coach Nick Rolovich to bench him on multiple occasions. With this being a home game for Hawai’i, don’t be surprised if Rolovich pulls out the hook for local favorite Chevan Cordeiro if McDonald shows a tendency to make the wrong reads again and Cordeiro is able to play. When Hawai’i does take to the air, Cedric Byrd and JoJo Ward have been the big guns, as both have amassed more than ten touchdowns this season, with Byrd leading the Rainbow Warriors with 95 catches on the season.
When BYU Has the Ball
This hasn’t been the year that Zach Wilson was expecting, as he missed a good chunk of the season because of a need for hand surgery. He came back strong in two of the final three games of the year, but he was also facing FCS Idaho State and Massachusetts, which might be the worst team in the nation at the FBS level. Against San Diego State, he didn’t get much done, throwing 53 times but failing to lead the Cougars into the end zone once against the Aztecs’ nasty defense. Wilson is going to have to be at his best against the Rainbow Warriors because BYU hasn’t been able to find anything resembling a running game this season. Sione Finau has been the best back with 359 rushing yards, which is a single game total for Navy’s offense.
In short, this is an offense that isn’t known for big plays but is going to have to get the job done with short passes because leaving the door open for Hawai’i’s “big play” offense could have catastrophic consequences.
These teams have been about as weak of a bet there is in bowl games, as both sides are 1-4 ATS in their past five bowl games. BYU has also been a lousy bet this season, as the Cougars have failed to cover in any of their four most recent games. Part of that could be the Cougars’ weak schedule. Or it could be that the Cougars have been unable to adjust to the role of favorite, as they’re also 0-6 in their past six games when favored. Hawai’i isn’t exactly known for showing up as an underdog, however, as the Warriors have lost 18 of 26 ATS when they’ve been a dog.
When the totals are involved, the best thing to do in this matchup has been to go over. The over is 4-1-1 in their past six meetings, a pretty strong number. However, BYU’s past nine as a favorite have gone under six times, and Hawai’i is under in five of its past seven against a team with a winning record.
Honolulu is known for the sun, but that might not be the case in this game. The temperature is projected to be 83 degrees, but rain is in the forecast.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
I’m going to reach back into my past and recall the words of Idaho Statesman writer Michael Lycklama, who once compared a pair of teams in the state playoffs, one of whom had been facing weaker opponents and winning every week. Meanwhile, the other had faced tough tests every week, forcing it on the road in the first round. His point was to ask whether you’d rather be a team that struggled to beat lesser opponents or a team that had faced tough teams and played them well, even if they didn’t always win. As he predicted, the road team was the tougher team and easily won the game.
I don’t think Hawai’i will have an easy win here, but I think the Rainbow Warriors have been preparing for this game a lot more than BYU has. I believe this is a time to go with Hawai’i straight up, as the single point really isn’t worth it. Give me the Rainbow Warriors to go ahead and win the game.
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