This Saturday the Arizona Wildcats will get their 2019 season underway with a road game against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. Kickoff is set for 10:30 EST at Aloha Stadium and will be televised on the CBS Sports Network.
Oddsmakers opened up this line at Arizona -11.5 and early action has shifted the number down just slightly to the Wildcats -11. The total opened at 71 and has been bet up anywhere from 73 to 74.5 depending on where you shop. Click on the link for a full look at the Week 1 betting odds.
Game Predictions & Vegas Betting Preview: Arizona vs Hawaii.
The Wildcats didn’t come close to meeting expectations in 2018. With Kevin Sumlin replacing Rich Rodriguez and star quarterback Khalil Tate back alongside 15 other starters, many thought Arizona was a legit threat to win the Pac-12 South. Not only did the Wildcats fail to win the South title, they didn’t reach bowl eligibility with a 5-7 campaign.
While I’m sure there’s some optimism among the Arizona faithful, I think fans are tempering expectations in year two under Sumlin. It all really comes down to which Khalil Tate they get at quarterback. Will it be the one from 2017 that was getting Heisman attention after rushing for 1,411 yards and 12 scores or the one from last year that managed just 345 yards and two scores on the ground.
Tate, who is back for his senior season, is one of 15 returning starters from last year. Despite Tate’s struggles in 2018, Arizona did manage to finish 43rd in scoring (31.3 ppg) and 24th in total offense (457.7 ypg). Defensively the Wildcats were 98th in scoring (32.6 ppg) and 92nd in total defense (432 ypg).
Hawaii Rainbow Warriors
While Arizona disappointed in 2018, Hawaii was one of the biggest surprises in the country. Coming off a 3-9 campaign with a mere 8 starters back from 2017, the Rainbow Warriors were picked by many to finish in the basement of the Mountain West Conference. Hawaii wound up going 8-6 and that was with a loss to Louisiana Tech in their bowl game.
While the media doesn’t seem to be paying much attention to the Warriors, the Hawaii faithfull have to be really excited about this year’s team. The Rainbow Warriors return 18 starters (9 offense, 9 defense). They will be in year 4 under head coach Nick Rolovich.
Those that watched Hawaii last year know that this team won the majority of their games by simply outscoring the opposition. The Warriors ranked 49th in both scoring (30.8 ppg) and total offense (419.9 ypg). Defensively they were 109th in scoring (35.1 ppg) and 100th in total defense (439.7 ypg).
These two teams have played just once in the 2000’s that was a 2016 matchup at Arizona. The Wildcats won that contest 47-28. Hawaii covered the spread as a 23.5-point dog and the game finished OVER the total of 62.5.
NCAA Football Free Betting Pick & Game Predictions: OVER 62.5
I would probably take the points with Hawaii if I was forced to take a side, but I feel the best value on the board here is the OVER 62.5.
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I just have a hard time seeing this game not reach 70 points. While Hawaii’s 30.8 ppg in 2018 was a full 8-points better than they averaged in 2017, this team was averaging 42.0 ppg. Cole McDonald may be the best quarterback in the MWC. The guy threw for 3,875 yards with a 36-10 TD-INT ratio, completing a healthy 59% of his attempts. He’s got two dynamic wide outs back in Cedric Byrd and JoJo Ward, as well as all 5 starters on the offensive line.
Arizona’s defense should be improved, but I don’t think it will be to the point where they are winning games with their defense. It’s been five years since the last time a Wildcats defense finished the year holding opponents under 30 ppg. I also feel like wherever Kevin Sumlin has gone, his defenses have not lived up to their potential.
As for Hawaii, they got 9 starters back on the defensive side of the ball, but that’s nothing to get excited about. Whenever the Rainbow Warriors were matched up against a capable offense, they got shredded. They had a stretch of 4-games in 2018 where they allowed all 4 opponents to score at least 40 points.
It was a perfect recipe for high-scoring games with the way their offense could light up the scoreboard. In Hawaii’s 13 regular-season games last year, only two games finished with fewer than 60 points. That was against Army and their clock-killing triple-option attack and against a Wyoming attack that failed to score 20 points in 7 of their first 8 games.
The other thing to keep in mind is the improvement expected with Arizona’s offense. It wasn’t so much that Tate got worse in 2018, he played the majority of the year with a bum ankle and the coaching staff tried to protect him by not allowing him to run. Tate is healthy going into 2019 and I look for him to return to the 2017 form, which had Arizona’s offense averaging 41.3 ppg.
OVER is a rock-solid 12-4 in Hawaii’s last 16 non-conference games and a perfect 7-0 in the first two weeks of the season since Rolovich took over as head coach.