The reigning Mountain West champion San Jose State Spartans will open up their conference slate with a road game against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on Saturday night at Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex in Honolulu. San Jose State is off to a 1-1 start as it faltered late against the USC Trojans back on September 4 in a 30-7 loss as a 13.5-point underdog. Hawaii enters at 1-2 after dropping a 45-27 decision to the Oregon State Beavers last weekend, failing to cover as an 11-point road underdog.
This is an even matchup historically with Hawaii leading 22-20-1 all-time after San Jose State picked up a 35-24 win last year as part of its undefeated regular season campaign.
San Jose State returns from bye week with sights on another MWC crownAfter putting up the best season in school history a year ago including its first-ever conference title, there was some hope that San Jose State could upset USC two weeks ago in Los Angeles, but the game got away late. The game was a defensive struggle in the first half before a Tyler Nevens touchdown run made it a 13-7 score in favor of USC at the 7:25 mark of the third quarter, only for all 17 points in the fourth to belong to the Trojans.
Quarterback Nick Starkel completed 24 of 46 pass attempts for 308 yards and two interceptions. Receiver Isaiah Hamilton had a productive day with six catches for 74 yards. The Spartans were right in the game for the most part as USC finished with only a 414-376 advantage in total yards, but two turnovers including a pick six plus 10 penalties did San Jose State in.
“It’s not what we learned, (but) what we already understood about ourselves,” safety Jay Lenard said to the Associated Press after recording 11 tackles, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery. “I expect us as a team, as a defensive unit to bring that fight. That’s just how we are.”
The Spartans are off to a 1-1 start against the spread after easily dealing with FCS Southern Utah as a 28-point favorite in the opener. Overs are also an even 1-1 for San Jose State after the contest at USC didn't come close to clearing the betting total of 61 points.
San Jose State's offense is now only averaging 26 points per game, although it has racked up an impressive 459.5 yards per contest in the early going. After owning one of the best defenses in the country a year ago, San Jose State is allowing 22 points and 333 yards per game so far in 2021.
Starkel, the transfer from Texas A&M who was a game-changer last year, has completed 40 of 73 pass attempts for 702 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions through two games this season. Nevens has been efficient on the ground, racking up 149 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries. Linebacker Kyle Harmon leads the defense with 15 tackles including one for a loss in addition to a pass breakup.
The Spartans didn't suffer any apparent injuries in the USC game, and nobody is on the official report heading into the weekend.
Hawaii's rally not enough after dreadful first quarterA tough nonconference schedule with two games against Pac-12 foes hasn't led to good results for Hawaii, and a massive first quarter deficit in Corvallis last Saturday night proved to be too much to overcome. Oregon State opened up a 21-0 lead at the end of one with the lead growing as large as 31-7, and while Calvin Turner Jr. would score on three separate touchdowns to make it a 38-27 game with 10:28 to go, the Beavers responded with a 15-play, seven-minute drive to put things away.
Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro completed 24 of 49 pass attempts for 366 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Turner Jr. had a monster outing with 191 all-purpose yards, two receiving touchdowns and one rushing score. The Hawaii offense looked sharp all around with 454 total yards, but the Rainbow Warriors just couldn't get enough stops with Oregon State piling up a total of 558 yards.
“Defensively we were just terrible,” head coach Todd Graham said via the Associated Press. “So frustrating defensively. That was the difference in the game.”
Hawaii is off to an ugly 0-3 start against the spread, as it was blown out by the No. 13 UCLA Bruins in the opener and struggled a bit with FCS Portland State as a 24.5-point favorite the week after. Overs are off to a 2-1 start for the Rainbow Warriors after last Saturday's game was able to clear the betting total of 65 points.
After an ugly showing against UCLA, the Hawaii offense has steadied and is now averaging 28.7 points and 432 yards per game overall. It has been a huge struggle for the defense in the early going, with opponents racking up 41.3 points and 475.7 yards per game to put Hawaii in the bottom 10 nationally on that side of the ball.
Cordeiro has been busy in the three games, completing 67 of 121 pass attempts for 891 yards, six touchdowns and five interceptions. Nick Mardner is set for a big season with 13 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns already, while Dae Dae Hunter has piled up 161 rushing yards and a score on 26 carries. O'tay Baker is a standout defensively with 12 tackles including three for a loss plus two sacks in the early going.
The Rainbow Warriors do not have any reported injuries heading into the conference opener.
San Jose State is:
- 18-5 ATS in its last 23 games as a road favorite.
- 7-2-1 ATS in its last 10 games overall.
- 18-6-2 ATS in its last 26 conference games.
Trends via Covers.com. Hawaii is:
- 17-38-1 ATS in its 56 conference games.
- 12-30-1 ATS in its last 43 home games.
- 1-5 ATS in its last six games overall.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Don't let the final score of the USC game fool you, as San Jose State was much more competitive than that showed despite being at a huge talent disadvantage and is still a very good football team on both sides of the ball. The Spartans will roll against an easier opponent this week, as Hawaii looks lost on defense in year two off the Todd Graham era.
San Jose State was one of the most balanced teams in all of college football last season with top 15 efficiency marks nationally on both sides of the ball, with 20 starters back from a roster that went undefeated in Mountain West play. The difference in quality between the two defenses is huge in this matchup, as while it was understandable that Hawaii was destroyed by UCLA, the Rainbow Warriors gave up a combined 80 points on 6.8 yards per play to FCS Portland State and a limited Oregon State offense.
Hawaii's offense in the glory days was good enough to make up for the defense, but Cordeiro hasn't been able to generate as many big plays downfield with under seven yards per pass attempt since the start of 2020 when Graham took over, and this is the toughest opposing defense in the conference. Brent Brennan is building something special at San Jose State, and the program is at the point where it can comfortably handle a mid-tier MWC opponent like Hawaii.
Full-Game Total Pick
This isn't the June Jones run-and-shoot Hawaii offense, but there's still a lot of positives from the early going, as Hunter is averaging over six yards per carry, Turner is an all-purpose weapon who can make things happen in multiple facets, and Mardner looks headed for an All-MWC year at receiver. Graham's teams have historically been near the top of the NCAA leaderboard with around 80 plays per game, so Hawaii will get plenty of cracks at the San Jose State defense even if it gets ugly at times.
What San Jose State lacks in pace it makes up for in efficiency with all the core pieces back from an offense that piled up 6.7 yards per play in 2020, as the talented Starkel finally found the right fit while the run game looks excellent behind Nevens once again. The Spartans had 35 points in this matchup last season and will do even more damage here with the Hawaii defense looking a lot worse, while the Rainbow Warriors will generate enough volume to make up the rest of the total.