The 2018 Hawai’i Bowl will have one team playing on their home turf. The Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors will play Louisiana Tech in Aloha Stadium on December 22. Here is the 2018 Hawai’i Bowl preview:
Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (7-5)
Skip Holtz has led Louisiana Tech to their fifth straight bowl game out of the C-USA. They registered losses to LSU, UAB, Mississippi State, Southern Mississippi and Western Kentucky. Their lone win over a bowl-eligible team came against North Texas, a team that finished 9-3.
The offense is just skating by with 24.2 points per game, which ranks in the 100s nationally. They average 246.8 passing yards and 126.4 rushing yards per game. Their passing attack is below average, while the rushing offense is one of the worst in the FBS.
J’Mar Smith leads the team from the quarterback position with 2,875 passing yards, 14 touchdowns and nine interceptions on 57% completion. He has a few talented receivers to throw to including Adrian Hardy and Teddy Veal. Veal has 62 receptions for 609 yards and a touchdown. Hardy enters the game with 69 receptions for 1,052 yards and nine touchdowns. He is a super sophomore who has three straight games with at least 100 receiving yards.
The running game is led by Jaqwis Dancy, who has 610 yards and six touchdowns on the season. Kam McKnight and Israel Tucker both have chipped in with over 300 yards themselves. Smith, from his quarterback position, has 138 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
Louisiana Tech’s defense ranks in the top half of the country at 23.6 points per game allowed. They allow 157.3 rushing yards per game and 193.6 passing yards per game. Jaylon Ferguson leads the nation in sacks from his defensive end spot and has the most career sacks in FBS history with 43 (stats started in 2005). Cornerback Amik Robertson has been making an impact as well with his 12 passes defended.
Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors (8-5)
The Rainbow Warriors have had an up and down football program under Nick Rolovich in his two years. He has gone back to the glory days of the Hawai’i air raid offense and it led the team to a solid 8-5 record. All of their losses this season came to bowl-eligible teams. Two of their wins were over bowl-eligible teams in Wyoming and San Diego State.
While they gain a lot of yards, Hawai’i only puts up 32.2 points per game. Their passing offense is one of the best in the country at 321.2 yards per game. They don’t run as much as other teams, but still average 113.5 rushing yards per game.
Cole McDonald has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country with 3,790 passing yards, 38 touchdowns and eight interceptions on 59.3% completion. He has three different receivers, John Ursua, Cedric Byrd and JoJo Ward, who all have at least 800 yards receiving and nine touchdowns. Ursua leads them all with 1,343 receiving yards (5th in FBS) and 16 touchdown catches (most in FBS).
The running game is less emphasized in this offense, but three different rushers have over 300 yards. Dayton Furuta leads the team with 450 rushing yards and also has two rushing touchdowns. Fred Holly III has added 411 yards and four scores on the ground. McDonald is the third rusher with over 300 yards on the season with 370 and four touchdown runs.
Hawai’i’s defense has allowed more points than they score at 35.4 points per game. They are middle of the pack with 231.2 passing yards per game allowed, but are near the bottom of the FBS with 207.5 rushing yards given up per game. Cornerback Rojesterman Farris II has been tough to throw on with 11 passes defended. Defensive lineman Kaimana Padello has also been great for the Rainbow Warriors, making the All-Mountain West Second Team.
One of the biggest competitive advantages for Louisiana Tech is Ferguson’s pass rushing ability. Hawai’i will be able to minimize his effectiveness by making sure the ball is out of McDonald’s hands quickly. McDonald should be able to have a big game and lead his team to victory in the process.
Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors 46 Louisiana Tech 36
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