Hawaii Bowl Preview

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Former conference rivals BYU and Hawaii will face off in Honolulu for the Christmas Eve Hawaii Bowl. These teams played a year ago at BYU and the Cougars have had a clear edge in the recent history of this series.

Hawaii is coming off a division championship season however and a closely-lined contest could prove to be one of the more competitive early bowl games.

Hawaii Bowl Betting Preview

BYU Cougars at Hawaii Warriors

Venue: At Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, Hawaii
Time/TV: Tuesday, December 24, 8:00 p.m. ESPN
Line: BYU -2, Over/Under 64
Last Meeting: 2018 at BYU (-10½) 49, Hawaii 23

Since 1980 these teams have met 24 times with 20 wins for BYU including five straight going back to 2002. BYU won 30-20 in 2017 in the last trip to Honolulu as a slight 3.5-point favorite. The Cougars have scored at least 30 points in seven straight meetings in this series and Kalani Sitake is 2-0 in bowl games including delivering a 49-18 bowl win over Western Michigan last season.
The Independent schedule for BYU was very uneven with power five tests early and a much lighter path late in the year. BYU turned in notable wins over Tennessee, USC, and Boise State, but also took losses to Toledo and South Florida as well. BYU lost its season finale at San Diego State, while also beating Utah State on the road as they played three Mountain West foes.
Known for an offense that scored 470 points this season the Hawaii defense turned in improved results down the stretch, allowing an average of just 20 points per game in the final four contests including the Mountain West Championship loss to Boise State. That game in Boise featured a 31-10 final score but the statistics were pretty even and it was a 3-3 game before things turned sharply on a few big plays in the final two minutes before halftime.
Cole McDonald and Chevan Cordeiro combined for 37 touchdown passes but with 17 interceptions as well as Hawaii will wind up with more than 600 pass attempts by season’s end. Hawaii actually eclipsed 2,000 yards rushing this season on 5.1 yards per carry for a massive leap to provide much better balance compared with last season.
McDonald played the entire MWC Championship game despite ceding significant time to Cordeiro late in the season. McDonald is much bigger in stature and has been the more prolific passer but Cordeiro, the Honolulu-native, had some big moments notably in the win over San Jose State.
Given the heavy-hitters on the early season schedule one would assume that the Cougars played a much tougher schedule but the slates rated similarly as Hawaii went 2-1 vs. Pac-12 teams early in the season beating Arizona and Oregon State and also had to play Boise State twice.
Hawaii has played in this bowl game four times since 2008 going 1-3 S/U and ATS, actually getting the win in the instance where they played as the biggest underdog. Last season Hawaii lost 31-14 to Louisiana Tech at home as a slight home underdog in what was a sloppy Hawaii Bowl with six turnovers. A 7-3 halftime lead turned sharply in the third quarter for the Warriors, who were held to only 226 net yards.
BYU was a road favorite four times this season and lost S/U three times while going 0-4 ATS.  Under Sitake BYU is just 4-6 ATS as a road favorite as well. Sitake is 10-12 S/U in road games at BYU while under Nick Rolovich, Hawaii is 6-8 S/U and ATS as a home underdog, though 2-1 S/U and ATS this season with wins over Arizona and San Diego State.
Sophomore Zach Wilson missed several games in the middle of the season but wound up with decent numbers after emerging as the starting quarterback as a freshman last season. One of his worst games came in the season finale at San Diego State with two interceptions and he has only played in two FBS games since his injury in late September. Six different players threw passes for BYU this season and while the numbers might look slightly better for backups Baylor Romney and Jaren Hall, they didn’t face some of the power five teams Wilson faced in September.
BYU doesn’t have a rusher with more than 400 yards as while the rushing attack proved adequate it was a clear committee approach with top rusher Sione Finau lost to a knee injury in November. Hawaii had a stronger per carry rushing average this season and playing two more games than BYU has, the Warriors with a stronger rushing production count for the season but trailed the Cougars on a per-game average.
The victor in the Hawaii Bowl has scored at least 30 points in seven straight seasons and only one of the past seven meetings has been a single-score result. The Mountain West had won three in a row against AAC teams before last season’s win for Louisiana Tech and this game should have a chance to top 30,000 in attendance for a second straight season with some positive enthusiasm for a solid season for the home team.