Hawaii Rainbow Warriors vs. Michigan Wolverines Preview and Prediction

The Wolverines host the Rainbow Warriors in the Big House to open their 2016 campaign

Jim Harbaugh and the No. 7 Michigan Wolverines kick off their regular season Saturday against Hawaii (0-1) in what will be the first of five consecutive homes games to start their campaign.

 

The Rainbow Warriors opened their 2016 season last week in Australia in disappointing fashion, losing 51-31 to California and giving up a whopping 630 total yards of offense in the process.

 

This will be Hawaii’s first-ever trip to the Big House and just the second meeting all-time between the two teams.

 

Hawaii at Michigan

 

Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 3, at 12 p.m. ET

TV Channel: ESPN

Spread: Michigan -40.5

 

Three Things to Watch

 

1. Who Starts at QB for the Wolverines?
Jim Harbaugh has been tight-lipped all week in regards to who will be under center when Michigan’s offense takes the field, though the growing sentiment is that junior Wilton Speight will be the choice.  The junior quarterback was in the midst of a tightly-contested competition this offseason with former Houston transfer John O’Korn, but the tea leaves are pointing to Speight taking the first snap on Saturday. Relegated to backup duties last year, Speight did appear briefly against Minnesota when former starting quarterback Jake Rudock left the game with a concussion, and wound up tossing the game-winning touchdown late in the fourth quarter so he is not without experience. If the Wolverines jump out to a big lead, it would not surprise to see both quarterbacks as they continue to audition for the starting job.

 

2. Establish the Run
With all of the things that went wrong for Hawaii last week, running the football was not an issue. The Warriors top three running backs, along with QB Ikaika Woolsey, rushed for a combined 248 yards and three touchdowns against Cal, including 118 yards from Diocemy Saint Juste on just 14 carries. For Hawaii to have any chance at keeping this a competitive game, the rushing attack will need to duplicate its success from last week. That means a repeat performance from Saint Juste and more production from Paul Harris, who was limited to only seven carries after rushing for 1,100 yards last season.

 

3. The Freshmen
The Michigan coaching staff has had glowing remarks for the true freshmen this fall camp and that is likely to result in extensive playing time on Saturday. In a local radio spot this week, Harbaugh rattled off 13 different names who have impressed during practices and will see the field sooner rather than later. Of those mentioned, former No. 1overall recruit Rashan Gary is the likeliest to see the field first, as a few who cover the team have projected him as the starting strong-side defensive end. Also predicted to make an appearance are running back Chris Evans, left tackle Ben Bredeson, cornerback David Long and linebacker Devin Bush Jr. Wolverine fans will get an extended look at the future of the program on Saturday.

 

Final Analysis

 

If, and it’s a big if, Hawaii can run the football successfully like it did a week ago, the Warriors have a chance to keep the score respectable through the first half. But the Wolverines are not California. Michigan has one of the top defensive fronts in all of college football and will force Woolsey to make plays through the air. That spells bad news for Hawaii. Expect the Wolverines to jump out to a big lead early and allow some of the aforementioned freshman to see plenty of snaps in what is likely a blowout win for Michigan.

 

Prediction: Michigan 49, Hawaii 3

 

— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Make sure to follow him on Twitter @MikeBainbridge2

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