The beginning of the college football season always brings some fun, unique matchups, and teams heading to unfamiliar settings. This week, the Stanford Cardinal will visit the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, setting the stage for a matchup that hasn’t taken place since 1972. Let’s take a look at the odds for this tropical clash, where my prediction is for Stanford to cover a spread of -3.5, and for the scoring total to go over 58.5.
Stanford Vs. Hawaii Prediction & Pick
Stanford is coming off of a season to forget, one that was so brutal that it spurred the end of an era, as longtime head coach David Shaw finally departed the program. After being rumored to the NFL for years, Shaw instead stuck it out in Palo Alto, eventually resigning shortly after the team’s campaign ended with a ninth loss. Shaw stepped into the role with big shoes to fill after the departure of Jim Harbaugh, but he achieved far more than his predecessor ever did, with three conference titles and a pair of Rose Bowl victories. Now, the program will be led by Troy Taylor, who last worked at FCS Sacramento State.
The Cardinal have struggled mightily in the current era of NIL and the transfer portal, with consecutive 3-9 seasons that could have been even worse if not for upset wins over Notre Dame last year, and #3 Oregon in 2021. Taylor will be tasked with picking up the pieces as best he can, and pulling the team back to regular bowl eligibility, as well as easing the transition into whatever’s next as the Pac-12 quickly crumbles.
Hawaii made their coaching shift last season, although not by choice. Todd Graham resigned after some allegations regarding his coaching methods, leaving the program with an 11-11 record and a bowl win, having gone 6-7 his last season. Hawaii replaced him by bringing home team legend Timmy Chang, one of the most prolific passers in FBS history. Chang will look to foster the development of Brayden Schager, who put in a pretty nice, albeit not mistake-free performance against Vanderbilt in a 35-28 road loss.
Things are only getting worse for an already-brutal Stanford team that lost a lot this offseason. The biggest piece to replace is starting QB Tanner McKee, who recently made the Philadelphia Eagles’ 53-man roster. That’s not a helmsman a program like this can afford to lose, and new starter Ari Patu will have to settle in quickly to even begin to replace McKee’s production. Interestingly, Patu is a grad of Folsom High School, where Taylor has coached in the past, although the two did not overlap.
Taylor will look to go to the air early and often, as will Chang, who had Schager toss 400 passes over 12 games last season. With the emphasis on pace, and the absolute bare-bones defenses on both sides, I’m going to side with the over, even as the number has remained relatively static. The offenses have a lot more upside, and I’d be shocked if neither team cracks the 30-point plateau.
For the result, this game is a weird one and has seen a lot of line movement, so I’m going to take advantage and pick Stanford to win by more than a field goal. There’s no film on them this year, while Hawaii has played a game, giving the Cardinal a better chance to prepare, and a distinct advantage. Yes, they’re hardly a Power 5 team at this point, but the same could be said of Vanderbilt, and that game wasn’t as close as the final scoreline indicated- the Commodores led 35-14 in the fourth quarter. Hawaii also isn’t remotely close to the top of the Group of 5, so the Cardinal should be able to pick up an extremely rare win.
Stanford Vs. Hawaii Odds
The line has moved quite a bit, opening around -10 for Stanford, but now it’s down to 3.5, with Stanford still favored. The total is set at 58, with the over and under both sitting at -110.
Stanford Vs. Hawaii Key Matchups
Will Stanford WRs be able to carry the day against this Hawaii secondary? Will the Stanford pass rush be able to get home against this veteran Hawaii O-Line? Check out the key matchups and mismatches that could decide who wins and covers in Stanford vs Hawaii.
Stanford Receivers vs. Hawaii Secondary
With a new quarterback and a questionable secondary on the other side, it’s up to the wide Stanford receiving group to make Patu’s starting debut as easy as possible. The team’s two best pass catchers from a year ago are both curiously enough on the Arizona Cardinals now; that duo is comprised of tight end Elijah Higgins, and wideout Michael Wilson, who was limited to just 6 games a year ago.
The most prolific returning wideout is John Humphreys, who snagged 29 balls for 348 yards last year. Mudia Reuben had poor volume, but the big wideout scored twice, he could be an end zone threat this year. But the top pass catcher will likely be tight end Benjamin Yurosek, poised for a breakout after 49 catches and 445 yards last season. They’ll be going up against a Hawaii secondary headlined by returners Peter Manuma at safety, and corner Virdel Edwards II, who combined for 5 picks last year.
Hawaii O-Line vs. Stanford Pass Rush
Other than transfer tackle Josh Atkins, every projected starting lineman was in the program last year, so there’s a bit of continuity for Hawaii here. The downside is that other than center Eliki Tanuvasa, none of those players had a particularly prolonged stretches of positive performances last year, so there’s still a long way to go for this unit.
With edge Stephen Herron transferring out to his hometown squad Louisville, Stanford is left without a face of the pass rush. The next best player in the unit last year was certainly David Bailey, who will need to step up and do even more this season. Lance Keneley also showed some flashes as he put up a pass rush win rate of 24.1%.