I have a few thoughts on this one. First, the match up that many people’s minds will go to for this game is of course Hawaii’s passing attack against UW’s young(ish) secondary. The ‘Bows are averaging nearly 40 points per game. Of their 12 scoring drives through the first two games, nine of those drives ended in passing touchdowns. No doubt they’ll follow the established blueprint on how to score against Washington and throw at redshirt freshman CB Kyler Gordon. Will he and the rest of the secondary step up? My thought is that they finally collect the defense’s first turnover of the season by picking off Hawai’i QB Cole McDonald, who has already thrown for five picks in just two games. Hawai’i will likely pass for a bunch of yards and score a few touchdowns. But based off of what we saw in the Eastern game, I think a mix of a good pass rush and quality DB play (compared to what Hawai’i saw against Arizona and Oregon State) will slow them down from their season averages. For Washington’s offense, I see them taking a step in the right direction here. While it was impressive how Hawaii’s D was able to shut out Oregon State’s legit offense in the second half last week, the fact that Hawai’i gave up 38 and 28 points to Arizona and Oregon State, respectively, makes me think that the Dawgs are good for a healthy amount of points at home.
Hawai’i is 2-0 so far this season with both wins coming against Pac-12 competition in Oregon State and Arizona. Despite Washington’s embarrassing (doesn’t even really begin to describe it) face plant last week, they will be a considerable step up for a Hawai’i team looking to be undefeated against a Power 5 league this year.
Lead by QB Cole McDonald, Hawai’i is a team that loves to throw the ball all over the field. They operate a run-and-shoot type of system with lots of WR motion and “on the fly” adjustments by the route runners. His primary targets are a pair of 5-9 seniors in Cedric Byrd II and JoJo Ward, who have 4 and 5 TDs a piece this season, respectively. They go for the big play a lot, but that leads to more interceptions than they’d like. The Husky defense has forced no turnovers so far this season (?!?!?) and will be hungry against a QB who has thrown 5 picks in just two games. The Warriors don’t run the ball much and will want to test a young Husky secondary that so far, has been prone to breakdowns.
Hawai’i isn’t exactly known for its defense though they have stretches of good play. But like many college defenses not in the upper echelons, they will go through instances of poor play and give up tons of points. Both Arizona and Oregon State had success against this defense, mostly on the ground. Salvon Ahmed should continue his strong start, which will open up passing lanes for Hunter Bryant and Aaron Fuller. Just catch the freakin ball and we should be okay. I expect most TDs from Washington will come from relatively big plays and if we’re forced into making plays in the red zone, we’ll be seeing plenty of Peyton Henry.
Washington-34-, Hawai’i- 24
Perhaps Cal exposed a bit of a weak spot in UW’s run defense. If that’s the case, Hawai’i is not well-equipped to take advantage of it. Every week makes it clearer that the Husky receiver corps can dominate less physical secondaries and struggles against more physical ones; this game should present the former. Hawai’i deserves credit for putting two wins in the books against Pac-12 teams, but they were against the two weakest opponents, and they’ll be getting a motivated version of one of the better teams in the conference this week.
The bad thing about this offense is that they are, by most metrics, better than Cal’s. The good thing is that they rely way more on the passing game. So that’s good!
Otherwise, as I wrote in the defense preview, they’re ability to stop opposing offenses is kinda all over the place. For two quarters a game (who knows which two), they’ll do great. The other two quarters, they’ll allow approximately one bajillion points. The main thing that makes me confident about Washington’s offense in this one -- provided Bush Hamdan doesn’t get too greedy too fast -- is that they have a lot of difficulty with ball-carriers in space, whether in the running game or in quick passes to the flats, etc. Early establishment of the run against Hawai’i is pretty much free yardage; they’re not great tacklers and the tackles they do make often give the ball-carrier an extra couple yards to fall forward. Once that happens, their linebackers and safeties have a tendency to bite on read options and PA, or at least cheat forward a bit, and then the secondary will sometimes break down for free air yards.
If the Dawgs follow that route, they’re probably gonna look like an actual functional offense again. If the game plan gets impatient, they’ll34 probably still be fine but will leave a lot of potential on the field.
Even with Washington’s defensive miscues last week, the Huskies are still in a good position to take on a pass-heavy run and shoot while the offense should have a big ground game and a passing game that’s statistically mediocre but efficient.
Washington-34, Hawai’i- 17
Well so much for me leading off every home game prediction with the “not picking us to lose until we lose another game at home” line. Still, I think it would be a let down of monumental proportions if the Huskies were to fall against Hawai’i. Yes, they’ve beaten a pair of Pac-12 teams. Both games were at home. But both were last second narrow escapes. And they were against probably the worst 2 defenses in the entire conference.
Cal may have figured things out in the 2nd half against the Huskies but this Hawai’i team is not in a position to take advantage of anything they may have learned. They almost never hand off the ball as running back carries make up just about 20% of their offensive snaps. Cole McDonald is probably about an equal scrambler to Chase Garbers so there is a potential weakness there that will need to be shored up instantly.
The Rainbow Warriors have a pair of 5’9 speedy receivers who have put up massive numbers so far this year. At this point I trust our secondary more against those type of receivers than traditional #1 behemoth outside WRs so I like our odds of containing them. On the other side of the ball this Hawai’i defense is not good. The odds are much more in favor of the Huskies finding themselves in a shootout than another mostly defensive battle like against Cal. I think Hawai’i finds it’s a lot more difficult coming to the mainland while Washington will be extremely motivated.
Washington- 43, Hawai’i- 20
THE FINAL TALLY
Straight Up: Washington- 5, Hawai’i- 0
Against the Spread (-21.5): Washington- 2, Hawai’i- 3
Average Score: Washington- 38.8, Hawai’i- 19.8