It might be a while before Nick Rolovich turns things around at Hawaii. Rolovich had a lot of success in his first season, surprising many by taking the Rainbow Warriors to a bowl game in 2016 when the program had won a combined eight games in the previous three seasons. However, the team took a big step back last year. The offense was unable to find the same success it did the previous season, and while the defense improved, it couldn’t make up the difference.
This season, it would be a minor miracle if Rolovich is able to lead the team to six wins. The Rainbow Warriors experienced more change than any other team in the conference, and they will be installing a new offense too. Expectations are low, and if Hawaii tops last year’s 3-9 record, it will be a success.
Hawaii has one of the lowest win totals of any team in the FBS. Currently, 5Dimes lists the over/under for the Rainbow Warriors at 3.5, and there is a slight shade toward the over at -120. Their underdog status is seen in their odds to win the conference though, with 5Dimes listing Hawaii as a 300-1 longshot to win the MWC. Keep in mind that these win total odds do not include conference championship games or bowl games.
|8/25||@ COLORADO STATE||+12|
|9/29||@ SAN JOSE STATE||PK|
|10/27||@ FRESNO STATE||+27|
|11/24||@ SAN DIEGO STATE||+29.5|
In 2016 and 2017, Hawaii kept the ball on the ground a lot. The Rainbow Warriors had one of the nation’s best running backs in Diocemy Saint Juste, and Rolovich ran the offense through him. With Saint Juste gone, Rolovich will now change the system to what made both he and Hawaii great in the first place.
Hawaii’s greatest years came with the team running the run-and-shoot under former head coach June Jones. Rolovich was one of the first quarterbacks to shine in Jones’ system, so it’s only natural for him to bring it back.
Don’t be surprised if there’s quite a bit of change at the quarterback position through the early part of the season though. Last year’s starter, Dru Brown, transferred to Oklahoma State in the offseason, and none of the quarterbacks on the roster have any real experience to speak of. Cole McDonald is the nominal starter, but he has only thrown nine passes in his career. That means the position is likely to be wide open for some time.
Now that the Rainbow Warriors are running the run-and-shoot, they must find some good receivers. John Ursua is a proven commodity. He was one of the top receivers in the country before he tore his ACL in the San Jose State game, and he led the team in receiving despite not playing in six games. The other returning members were primarily used as possession receivers in 2017 though.
There might not be much of a running attack from Hawaii this season. The offensive line only returns two starters from 2017, and no one on the roster has more than nine carries during their time on campus.
Change is in store for the defense too in 2018. Former defensive coordinator Legi Suiaunoa left to be a position coach at Oregon State, so Rolovich brought over Corey Batoon from Florida Atlantic to run things on this side of the ball. Batoon doesn’t look like he will change much up with regards to the scheme, but there will be a lot of new faces starting in 2018.
The strength of the team will be the linebacking corps. Jahlani Tavai earned all-conference honors for his play in 2017, and he is going to be the leader of the defense. He led the team in tackles, sacks, and tackles for loss last season, and it’s hard to argue with his production. Solomon Matautia returns as well to give this defense some much needed experience.
There are major questions along the defensive line though. The unit lost their top three defense linemen from 2017, and they are bringing in a lot of new players. Seven recruits, five from the JUCO ranks, signed on back in February, so Batoon is hoping he can patch up this unit rather quickly.
In the secondary, Hawaii has experience at the corners, but the same can’t be said about the safeties. The two players slated to start have only seen limited action, and that’s something that could be a problem. The cornerbacks are decent though, and both Eugene Ford and Rojesterman Farris are over six feet.
The kicking position is a bit of a nightmare for Hawaii. Ryan Meskell and Alex Trifonovitch shared the starting role in 2017, and the two combined to go just 4-9 on the year. Both are back for 2018, but there is no indication that either one has markedly improved.
Hawaii has three winnable games on its schedule. The Rainbow Warriors should be able to beat FCS Duquesne with relative ease, and they also get the benefit of playing two of the worst teams in the FBS in Rice and San Jose State. Getting wins in all three of those games would put a four-win season within grasp.
Pick: Under 3.5 (-110, 5Dimes)
At the end of the day, there is too much going on for Hawaii to get to the four wins it needs to for the over to cash. The Rainbow Warriors return just seven starters, by far the fewest in the conference, and there are a ton of questions on both sides of the ball.