Army Black Knights at Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
Saturday, November 30, 2019 at 11:59 PM (Aloha Stadium)
Hawaii -3; Total 56.5 Click to Get Latest Betting Odds
Two teams with varying motivations will face each other at Aloha Stadium in Honolulu when the Army Black Knights (5-6) face the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (8-4) in non-conference action. Hawaii will play in the Mountain West Conference title game at Boise State in one week and will probably look to stay healthy, while Army needs one win to become bowl eligible.
That bowl eligibility might be a key factor for an Army team that faced some lesser competition to get on a two-game win streak after a five-game losing streak in the middle of the season. The Black Knights opened the season 2-1 and nearly knocked off No. 7 Michigan in that time, falling in double overtime, 24-21. But after that, Army lost to Tulane, Western Kentucky, Georgia State, San Jose State, and Air Force to suddenly look at a 3-6 record. But blowout wins over UMass and VMI put Army back in the hunt for bowl eligibility with two games remaining.
While most teams will finish up their seasons this week with conference championships the following week, the annual Army-Navy, to be played after the conference championships, is a second game that the Black Knights need to win to become bowl eligible. But Army did what it needed to the past two weeks with its back against the wall to keep its hopes alive. Both games will be incredibly difficult, though, with Hawaii preparing to play in the Mountain West Conference title game, and Navy still holding out hope that it can win on Saturday and Memphis loses to Cincinnati so it can play in the American Athletic Conference championship.
Army is the No. 3 rushing offense in the nation behind Navy and Air Force, averaging 302.6 yards per game on the ground this season. Quarterback Kelvin Hopkins Jr. leads the Black Knights in rushing with 619 yards and seven touchdowns out of the triple option, while Connor Slomka has added 572 yards and seven touchdowns on the ground. Hopkins has passed for just 501 yards all season and Army, as a team, has only thrown for 914 yards.
Hawaii hs caught fire once again after having a bit of a mid-season lull. The Rainbow Warriors opened the season at 4-1 with the lone loss coming against No. 23 Washington. But Hawaii then lost to No. 14 Boise State, Air Force, and Fresno State in the course of four weeks to bring its record down to 5-4. But three straight wins over San Jose State, UNLV, and San Diego State gave the Rainbow Warriors the Mountain West Conference West Division title and another shot at Boise State in a game for the conference title.
While Hawaii is known for its offense, it was the defense that won the last two games. UNLV and San Diego State averaged scoring just 9.0 points and the Rainbow Warriors did just enough on offense for the win. While quarterback Cole McDonald averaged passing for 310.7 yards per game in the first nine games of the season, McDonald and teammate Chevan Cordero have combined to pass for just 236.0 yards per game over the past two wins, but it has been plenty for the wins.
McDonald ranks 10th in FBS with 3,151 yards passing this season and sits 17th in FBS with 26 touchdown passes. With Cordero’s 798 passing yards this year, Hawaii is the No. 7 passing offense in FBS with 3,963 yards. That should make for a fascinating matchup with Army’s defense ranking 11th in FBS allowing just 178.7 yards per game. Cedric Byrd II is second on the team and 22nd in FBS with 927 yards while JoJo Ward has 889 reception yards. Ward is tied for 15th in FBS with 10 touchdown receptions while Byrd is tied for 23rd with nine touchdown catches.
While motivation will likely play a role in this game, as in Army trying to get bowl eligible and Hawaii trying to stay fresh and healthy for the MWC title game, the Rainbow Warriors certainly look to be the better team here. And even though Hawaii ranks just 92nd in FBS allowing 188.0 rushing yards per game, it has shown improvement over the past two weeks allowing just 89 yards to San Diego State and 117 yards to UNLV on the ground. San Diego State and UNLV are certainly not Army and its triple option, but it is an improvement over the rest of the season.
Take all that into account and then realize that Hawaii can rest McDonald and use Cordero who can both run and pass, and even rest Byrd and Ward and allow Jared Smart and Jason-Matthew Sharsh, who have 68 and 67 catches on the season respectively, to star with some other younger receivers who may not have much playing time this year. That combination is probably enough to still knock off Army. So look to Hawaii to stay hot on the islands and to cover the three points.