Hawaii vs Middle Tennesee Hawaii Bowl Odds, Expert Pick & TV Info
When: Saturday, Dec. 24, 8 PM ET
Where: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu
Opening NCAA Football Lines: TBA
Why Bet on Hawaii?Under head coach Nick Rolovich, the Rainbow Warriors (6-7), runners-up in the MW’s West Division, will make their first appearance in the Hawaii Bowl since 2010. UH is making its seventh Hawaii Bowl appearance and 11th overall bowl. Hawaii is 3-3 in the Hawai’i Bowl and is 5-5 overall in bowl games.
Hawai’i appeared in six of the Hawaii Bowl’s first nine years of existence, meeting C-USA teams four times. UH is 2-2 in those games with wins over Houston (2003) and UAB (2004) and losses to Tulane (2002) and Tulsa (2010). The Rainbow Warriors wouldn’t have made a bowl game had enough teams finished with winning records. But their 6-7 record was good enough because they had the advantage of a 13th regular-season game, which they used to edge Massachusetts 46-40 on Nov. 26.
Quarterback Dru Brown completed 62 percent of his passes for 2,214 yards and 15 touchdowns. The top receiver is Marcus Kemp, who caught 70 balls for 1,036 yards and seven scores. He was named the team MVP. Kemp finished his career ranked in the school’s Top 10 for receiving yards and is the 12th player to surpass 1,000-yards in a single-season. He ranks fourth in the MW with an average of 5.4 receptions per game and is fifth with a 79.7 yards per game average. He also has a team-leading 10 catches of 30 yards or more.
UH’s top defensive player is linebacker Jahlani Tavai, who was first-team All-Mountain West. Tavai ranks sixth in the Mountain West and 32nd nationally with an average of 9.1 tackles per game. He also is second in the MW with a 1.35 tackles for loss average while his seven sacks ranks seventh. Tavai posted double-digit tackles in seven games including a career-high 14 against UNLV.
Although UH is listed as the away team for the Hawaii Bowl, it is considered a home game for NCAA statistical purposes. UH scored 30 or more points seven times this season, the most in a season since 2011. Four of those games occurred at home where UH averaged 33.3 points per game in six contests.
Why Bet on Middle Tennessee?The Blue Raiders expect to get the services of redshirt sophomore quarterback Brent Stockstill back. Stockstill, who missed the final three games of the regular season with a broken collarbone suffered in a Nov. 5 loss to Texas-San Antonio, threw for 2,801 yards and 27 touchdowns in nine games. He completed nearly 64 percent of his passes and tossed only five interceptions in 363 attempts. Stockstill already has school records of 57 career touchdown passes and 13 300-yard passing games.
But if Stockstill doesn’t start or is ruled out, the Blue Raiders will turn to John Urzua. The redshirt freshman gained valuable experience over the last four weeks in the regular season and threw for 816 yards and eight scores in 2016. Urzua was injured in the finale against FAU, prompting receivers Dennis Andrews and Richie James and running back I’Tavius Mathers to attempt passes.
Middle Tennessee (8-4) finished in third place of C-USA’s East Division and features one of the nation’s top offenses. The Blue Raiders, coached by Rick Stockstill, are eighth nationally in total offense (515.7 ypg), 12th in passing (317 ypg), and 16th in scoring (40.1 ppg). MT will make its third bowl appearance in the last four years and first trip to the Hawaii Bowl.
Running back I’Tavius Mathers has put up monster numbers this season, rushing for 1,504 yards and 16 TDs and catching 62 passes for 589 yards and three more scores. The former Ole Miss transfer became only the seventh player in FBS history to produce 1,500 rushing yards and 500 receiving yards in one season. Richie James finished sixth nationally with 1,463 receiving yards — which broke his old school record for receiving yards in a single season (1,346). MT and Hawaii have met just once, back in 1993.