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Despite having one of the worst defenses in the country, Hawaii managed to finish 7-7 and win a bowl game last season. With enough pieces to improve on every level, the Rainbow Warriors will try and compete with the best teams in the MWC in 2017. While they finished 4-4 in conference play, they were blown out by a combined 107-16 score line against SDSU and Boise State.

The Hawaii offense was the reason it went on to win seven games, highlighted by the 52 points against Middle Tennessee in the bowl win. In addition to that, first-year head coach Nick Rolovich ran every kind of offense conceivable with Dru Brown (19 TDs, 7 INTs) looking able at quarterback. Brown’s athleticism is a key part to an offense that returns a lot of relevant parts. Diocemy Saint Juste (1,006 yards, 3 TDs) will lead the backfield, while Dylan Collie (33 receptions) and John Ursua (53 receptions) could have even bigger roles in the receiving game with Marcus Kemp (1,100 yards, 8 TDs) gone. Keelan Ewaliko (197) is expected to be the top receiver, but after playing five positions in four years, he probably won’t match Kemp’s numbers. The line returns three starters and that should be just enough for the Warriors to progress in this offense with Brown at quarterback.

One would assume the defense can only get better after giving up 37.3 points per game, but with yet another new defensive coordinator, nothing can be assumed. Legi Suiaunoa takes over after being the defensive line coach for one of the worst run defenses. The unit returns five starters with a lot of sophomores expected to come into starting roles. Linebacker Jahlani Tavai is the name to know after he stacked up 129 tackles a year ago. The secondary was the best part of the defense last year and should be again even with only one full-time starter returning in safety Trayvon Henderson. The young players coming in showed flashes in the spring and other safety Daniel Lewis is returning from an injury.

Due to the offense, Hawaii should start the season on a good note, although traveling all the way to UMass is far from a freebie. After a tough road back-to-back in September with UCLA and Wyoming, the schedule opens up and is favorable for the Warriors. Outside of that Wyoming game, the Warriors have a chance to win their other three conference road games. Competing with SDSU in the West division will obviously depend on what the team can do against the Aztecs at home.

Getting to a bowl game should be attainable again even with less games on the schedule. The offense has enough pieces returning to beat teams like SJSU and Fresno, but the defense will be key in stealing road games against the likes of Nevada and UNLV. Their early over/under was sitting near four wins, but Hawaii could easily reach six playing in the MWC’s West division. Still, they aren’t expected to contend with SDSU in the West with +3500 odds at 5Dimes Sportsbook to win the conference, even with Nevada.


2017 Hawaii Rainbow Warriors Football Schedule

Aug. 26 at Massachusetts
Sept. 2 vs. Western Carolina

Sept. 9 at UCLA
Sept. 23 at Wyoming

Sept. 30 vs. Colorado State
Oct. 7 at Nevada
Oct. 14 vs. San Jose State

Oct. 28 vs. San Diego State
Nov. 4 at UNLV
Nov. 11 vs. Fresno State
Nov. 18 at Utah State
Nov. 25 vs. BYU

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