Can the Rainbow Warriors shake up the Mountain West?
The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and the Boise State Broncos both head into this weekend's matchup sitting atop their respective divisions in the Mountain West Conference. High-powered offenses fueled by solid quarterback play have gotten these teams to where they are.
On Saturday night, they'll meet on the blue turf in Boise.
Hawaii head coach Nick Rolovich has his club winning the games they're supposed to win this season, tripping up only against the Washington Huskies. When your team scores 37 points per game, you're going to have a chance to win every week -- regardless of what your defense does. That's been the case with the Rainbow Warriors this season.
Boise State has ridden freshman quarterback Hank Bachmeier's efficiency and an underrated rushing attack to a 5-0 record to start the year. Defensively, the Broncos have been solid. That said, they have yet to face an offense like Hawaii's.
Boise State has won the last six meetings with the Rainbow Warriors by an average of 38 points per game.
Hawaii at Boise State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 12 at 10:15 p.m. ET
Spread: Boise Stae -13.5
When Hawaii Has the Ball
The Rainbow Warriors are in attack mode from start to finish. Quarterback Cole McDonald throws it all over the field and does so with decent accuracy (68.9 completion rate). He has a nice corps of receivers that he likes to spread the ball to, as four Hawaii players have at least 27 catches on the season. Cedric Byrd and JoJo Ward are first and third, respectively, in the Mountain West in both receptions (40, 28) and receiving yards (498, 418), and have combined for 15 touchdown catches.
It's rare that Hawaii doesn't move the ball up and down the field with ease. Boise State's best hope defensively will be to pressure McDonald and force him to make a mistake with the football. He's tossed nine interceptions so far in 2019. Getting turnovers will be paramount for the Broncos, as the Rainbow Warriors are tied for second to last in the nation with a minus-nine turnover margin yet have still found a way to win to start 4-1. Defensive end Curtis Weaver leads the nation with nine sacks, which is on more than Hawaii has a team. Boise State is tied for 11th nationally with 19 sacks in five games.
When Boise State Has the Ball
Hank Bachmeier has been outstanding as a true freshman for Bryan Harsin's club. He's right behind McDonald in passer rating in the Mountain West while completing 64 percent of his passes with just three interceptions (and eight TDs). Fortunately, the Broncos also have been effective in running the ball, taking some pressure off of Bachmeier. George Holani and Robert Mahone have combined for 603 rushing yards thus far while averaging better than five yards per carry.
Look for Boise State to try to control the tempo with the rushing attack and limit Hawaii's possessions -- effectively shortening the game. That's not normally what the Broncos do, as the Rainbow Warriors have been holding onto the ball longer (32:55 vs. 31:56). But in this case, Boise State needs to get out of the weekend with a win to keep their New Year's Six and College Football Playoff hopes alive. Everything is on the table.
As good as Hank Bachmeier has been this season, he also has looked sluggish and confused at times. It's highly unlikely that Boise State shuts down this high-powered Hawaii offense. That means at some point, the Broncos will need to abandon the rushing attack to keep up in what's likely to become a track meet. When that happens, watch out for the true freshman to start forcing balls into places they have no business being thrown, likely leading to a game-changing turnover.
Prediction: Hawaii 33, Boise State 30
— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. His work has appeared on SI.com, FoxSports.com, Yahoo!, SBNation, USA Today and Bleacher Report. He is a three-time FWAA writing contest award winner. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.