Hawai’i Bowl 2018: Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

The 2018 Hawai'i Bowl will feature the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. Hawai'i Rainbow Warriors on Saturday, December 22, 2018 at 10:30pm ET on ESPN.

Since 2004, the Hawai’i Bowl has been played every year on Christmas Eve, however this year it will be held on December 22nd at 10:30 pm ET (9:30 pm CT) on ESPN. The Hawai’i Bowl continues as the first non-all-star post-season game in the state since December 2000. This match-up features teams from the Mountain West and Conference USA. Teams from the Mountain West have won in the past three years.

The Teams

In this year’s Hawai’i Bowl, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will play against the hosting Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors, who are actually an old rival from La Tech’s time in the Western Athletic Conference. The teams first faced each other in 2000, with Hawai’i winning 27-10. A year later, La Tech joined the same conference as Hawai’i, becoming an annual opponent until the Rainbow Warriors left the WAC in 2012. Hawai’i currently leads the series 8-2, with the Bulldogs winless in Honolulu.

Hawai’i

The Rainbow Warriors have only been to eleven bowls in the school history, seven played in their home stadium. They are currently 6-5 in bowls; their last bowl appearance in 2016 with a victory over Middle Tennesee. The Warriors’ last non-Hawai’i Bowl appearance was against Georgia in the 2008 Sugar Bowl. They open this 2018 bowl match-up as a one-point favorite over the Bulldogs.

The Rainbow Warriors have an entertaining run-and-shoot offense that has proven to work for the team, for the most part, as they started the season 6-1 (32.1 PPG, 42nd in the FBS). The Warriors have faced some fairly tough defenses this season, however. In games against Wyoming, BYU, Fresno State, Utah State, and San Diego State, the Warriors only scored 21.6 points per game, finishing 2-3 against those teams.

Hawai’i went 8-5 for the season, averaging 321 yards per game. This was the most wins the Rainbow Warriors have had since 2010 with ten. They put up some big numbers throughout the season with two different quarterbacks, Cole McDonald and Chevan Cordeiro. Their pass game is efficient and explosive, however, Hawai’i is also good at giving up points, as they did in the four consecutive losses they incurred in the middle of their regular season.

Lousiana Tech

This is the Bulldogs’ fifth consecutive bowl appearance under head coach Skip Holtz, and their first appearance in the Hawai’i Bowl. They look to continue their winning bowl streak under Holtz. Lousiana Tech finished the regular season 7-5, their second year winning seven games. They had positioned themselves to compete for the Conference USA West title but fell short with losses to Southern Miss and Western Kentucky. The Bulldogs also had two losses to SEC teams, LSU and Mississippi State. However, LSU’s win did not come easily, as the Bulldogs held the Tigers to 5.38 yards per play, covering an 18.5 point spread.

Louisiana Tech has the ultimate defense to slow the Warriors’ animated offense, as they only allowed 6.5 yards per pass attempt (32nd in the FBS) with a 9.2% sack rate against opposing quarterbacks. The Bulldogs defense ranks 47th, which is impressive, not to mention having one of the most dominant pass rushers in CFB. Senior end Jaylon Ferguson has 15 sacks and 23.5 sacks for loss. Earlier in the year, the Bulldogs held North Texas, who was averaging 36.4 points per game, to only 27 points in a road win. They also won against Lane Kiffin’s FAU Owls on the road, 21-13. The Bulldogs were the underdog in both match-ups.

What Will Win

‘Tis the season for quarterback play, and this match-up may come down to just that. Both teams have capable QBs, with Hawai’i double fisting in that area. Bulldogs QB J’Mar Smith completed 57 percent of passes for 2,875 yards, 14 touchdowns, and nine interceptions, not to mention FOUR 300-yard games. Oh, and 138 rushing yards and two touchdowns.

Quarterback Cole McDonald led the Warriors to five wins but sat out midseason due to injury. True freshman QB Chevan Cordeiro led the team to a win late in the game against UNLV, after McDonald was benched. Later in the season, McDonald found his rhythm again, completing 29-of-46 passes for a season-high of 452 yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions against San Diego State. He finished tied for fifth among all FBS quarterbacks with 315.8ypg. McDonald has completed 59.3 percent of passes for 3,790 yards and four touchdowns.

The Game

What: Hawai’i Bowl

Who: Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors vs. Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

When: Saturday, December 22nd, 2018 at 9:30 pm CT (10:30 pm ET) on ESPN

Where: Aloha Stadium in Honolulu, HI

With a Warrior team that is known for giving up points and a Bulldog squad with a stiff defense and their eye on a winning bowl streak, this game will be entertaining to watch.

Prediction: Louisiana Tech 37 – Hawai’i 24

 

Main Photo Credit:

The 2018 Hawai’i Bowl will feature the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs vs. Hawai’i Rainbow Warriors on Saturday, December 22, 2018 at 10:30pm ET on ESPN.

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