The Hawaii Bowl organizers were definitely saying ‘Mahalo’ to Nick Rolovich and the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at the end of the season. The bowl just isn’t the same without the hometown team there, and they have played in it in nine of the last 20 seasons. Rolovich has now led Hawaii to two appearances in this bowl in the last three years, and this year the Rainbow Warriors will say ‘Aloha’ to Skip Holtz and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs. This will be Louisiana Tech’s first trip to the Hawaii Bowl.
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs Hawaii Bowl Betting Odds: Hawaii -1, O/U 60 Location: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu, Hawaii Date and Time: Saturday, December 22, 2018, 10:30 p.m. ET Hawaii Bowl TV Coverage: ESPN
It was another solid year for Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs opened the season 2-0, and they only trailed LSU by a field goal in the fourth quarter before eventually succumbing to the Tigers. The next week, they upset North Texas in Denton to become the frontrunner to win Conference USA West, but a loss to UAB the next week put them behind the eight ball. Still, they were in contention for the division title until losses to Southern Miss and Western Kentucky to close out the year.
Hawaii was one of the first bowl eligible teams in the country, getting to six wins in early October. The Rainbow Warriors’ only loss at that point had been on the road against Army, and they were nearly ranked for the first time since 2010 after beating Wyoming. Unfortunately, it all came apart for the team after that. Hawaii lost each of its next four games by at least 18 points as the defense fell apart. The team was able to end its season with wins over UNLV and San Diego State though.
Injuries and Absences
Rhashid Bonnette may be out for this game for Louisiana Tech. The junior wide receiver has been a nice deep threat for the Bulldogs this season, but he has been sidelined for the last couple games with an ankle injury. He is listed as questionable to play.
Losing linebacker Jahlani Tavai for the entire season in early November hurt Hawaii. Tavai was the team’s leading tackler last year, and his absence has been missed as the defense has struggled.
No one thought that Skip Holtz would end up staying in Rustin for too long, but the Louisiana Tech head coach has been right in that middle ground. He is in his sixth season, and he has been good enough to not be fired, but he has not performed well enough to land a better job. It’s not a big secret that Holtz is viewing this as an extended audition. He has done a good job in bowl games though. Louisiana Tech has won all four of its previous bowl games under Holtz, averaging over 45 PPG.
Rolovich was one of the first great quarterbacks that June Jones produced. He was the quarterback of Hawaii from 2000 to 2001, and he returned to the school as an assistant coach in 2008. When the program made the decision to go back to using a run-and-shoot, he was the obvious option to lead the team, and that has now led to two bowl appearances in the last three seasons. The Rainbow Warriors hadn’t made a bowl game for six years prior to 2016, and it’s nice to see the program embracing what made it special once more.
Player to Watch
Any offense that runs the run-and-shoot will ask a lot of its quarterback, and Cole McDonald has delivered for Hawaii. The sophomore from California has shined in the system, and he is likely to end the year with more than 4,000 yards through the air. McDonald has proven himself to be a solid running threat too, but his greatest value has been his decision-making ability. He has thrown just eight interceptions this season.
Hawaii Bowl Pick
Give Skip Holtz credit. He has always had his teams ready for bowl games, and this offense should be ready to score. Although Louisiana Tech ranked 109th in S&P+ on offense, the Bulldogs are facing one of the worst defenses in the country and Holtz has had time to find weaknesses. I see Hawaii scoring as much as it typically does too, so the best bet in this one will be the over.