college football picks Hawaii at Army 9-11-10

September 11, 2010

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DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 11th, 12:00 p.m. (et).

FACTS & STATS: Site: Michie Stadium (40,000) — West Point, New York. Television: CBSCSN. Home Record: Hawaii 0-1, Army 0-0. Away Record: Hawaii 0-0, Army 1-0. Neutral Record: Hawaii 0-0, Army 0-0. Conference Record: Hawaii 0-0, Army 0-0. Series Record: Hawaii leads, 1-0.

GAME NOTES: The Army Black Knights shoot for their first 2-0 start to a season since 1996 when they entertain the Hawaii Warriors in non-conference play at Michie Stadium at West Point on Saturday afternoon.

Last week, Army had to claw its way into the win column as it put together the winning drive in the final three minutes to secure the 31-27 victory versus Eastern Michigan. While the win was certainly thrilling for the Black Knights, it must be noted that the Eagles were one of two teams from the Football Bowl Subdivision to go winless in 2009 at 0-12, so the win should have been expected to begin with. But, no matter what the circumstances, Army still managed to start consecutive seasons with a win for the first time since 1995 and 1996.

As for the Warriors, they’ve become globetrotters in a span of just a week after beginning their 2010 campaign with a home date against 14th-ranked USC. With all the pressure weighing on the Trojans, Hawaii was able to actually make the game close before suffering the 49-36 loss in Honolulu. The defeat dropped the program to just 9-33 all-time against opponents who were ranked in the AP and 8-21 in such matchups played in Honolulu.

The Warriors won the first and only meeting between these two programs with a 59-28 victory back in 2003 at Aloha Stadium.

There were a number of positives Hawaii could take away from its loss to the Trojans last week, not the least of which was knowing that it had become the first team to ever have three players record at least 100 yards receiving against a USC defense. Another plus for the offense, even though it had to go through a number of quarterbacks, was that the team didn’t suffer a single turnover, breaking a stretch of 37 straight outings in which the program had been pressured into losing possession at least once. Even though he was taken out of the game with an injury, junior quarterback Bryant Moniz is back atop the depth chart at quarterback for the Warriors after hitting 18-of-36 passes for 269 yards and a score. With the help of backups Brent Rausch and Shane Austin at quarterback, Kealoha Pilares (five catches for 176 yards and three touchdowns, Greg Salas (eight for 124 yards) and Royce Pollard (seven for 106) all stretched the USC defense and exposed the Trojan secondary time and time again. Known as a passing team for quite some time, expect that trio and many other skills players to again be a part of an offense that ranked first in the WAC and third in the nation last season with 337 ypg through the air.

Even though the Warriors seemed to remain within striking distance of USC for much of their meeting, the fact was the Hawaii defense was subjected to far too many big plays and could not recover. The secondary allowed USC quarterback Matt Barkley to tie a school record with five passing touchdowns and at times it felt like the Trojans signal-caller could almost will his group into the end zone. Kaniela Tuipulotu came up with the lone sack for the home team, compared to three such takedowns for the Trojans, while Mana Silva logged a team-best 10 tackles and a fumble recovery to make things interesting. Even though it is early in the season, a favorable turnover margin for the Warriors cannot be ignored, seeing as how the team placed ninth in the WAC and 113th in the country last year in that department. Notoriously poor at stopping the run, Hawaii gave up 246 yards on the ground for an average of seven yards per attempt, a number that makes perfect sense given that the Warriors were touched for 201.9 ypg last year to rank 107th in the nation.

Making his collegiate debut against Eastern Michigan, Jared Hassin stepped in and logged 68 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winner, on just 12 carries for the Black Knights last week. The running back corps handled most of the snaps as they generated 309 yards as a unit, the most for the team since 2008. As usual, the quarterback position was used more to facilitate the action rather than create it, leaving Trent Steelman to convert just 5-of-11 passes for 65 yards in the meeting. Steelman was the starter at QB for the Knights last year and actually led the team in rushing with almost 60 yards per attempt, but with the focus on keeping the ball on the ground there were few opportunities for the signal-caller to actually show off his arm. In fact, only once did Steelman throw for more than 90 yards in a single game, going for 174 versus VMI in the middle of November. Not only did he throw for a pitiful eight yards versus EMU in the 2009 opener, Steelman also had back-to- back games against Rutgers and Air Force in which he accounted for a mere 16 and 17 yards, respectively, through the air.

While the Black Knights were grinding up the yards on the ground offensively, the team’s defense was getting a taste of the same sort of action as it surrendered 285 yards on 51 attempts by Eastern Michigan. The home team tallied three touchdowns running the ball as it averaged better than five and a half yards per chance, even though Stephen Anderson was hanging around to make a team-best 10 stops and force a fumble in the close matchup. Bill Prosko recorded only two tackles, but he was responsible for one forced fumble and a recovery in order to strengthen his efforts. Last season the Knights had one of the tightest pass defenses in all of college football, ranking third in the FBS with just 152.8 ypg, but you had better believe that group is going to be tested over and over again this weekend as the Warriors throw everything they have at the service academy. Three times in 2009 Army limited an opponent to 80 yards or less on the ground and that could easily happen on Saturday afternoon as well, but that’s a concession the Warriors will be glad to make if they can exploit the Black Knights over the top.

Even if Moniz is not at 100 percent for this game, the Hawaii offense already showed that it could adapt and change pieces to the offense on the fly in order to make it work. As long as Army can control the tempo by grinding out the yards on the ground the hosts will have a chance, otherwise the trip will be worth it for the Warriors.


FREE COLLEGE FOOTBALL PICKS : Hawaii 45, Army 21

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