Hawaii vs. UCLA: Game Preview, Kickoff Time, How to Watch, Odds
The Hawaii Warriors will kick off their 2021 football season against the UCLA Bruins. Here’s how to tune in and what to watch for.
The Warriors look to deliver the season’s first big stunner.
WEEK 0: Hawaii Warriors vs. UCLA Bruins
WHEN: Saturday, August 28 — 9:30 AM HT/12:30 PM PT/1:30 PM MT
WHERE: Rose Bowl; Pasadena, CA
STREAMING: Fans can sign up to receive a free one-week trial of Fubo, which includes ESPN, by following this link.
RADIO: The Hawaii broadcast can be found locally on ESPN Honolulu, 1420 AM and 92.7 FM, while the Bruins broadcast can be found in and around southern California on the UCLA Radio Network, including flagship 570 AM. The game will also be broadcast nationally on Westwood One Sports radio affiliates and on satellite radio at Sirius channel 206 and XM channel 197.
SERIES RECORD: UCLA leads the all-time series, 3-0. In the last meeting on September 9, 2017, the Bruins defeated the Warriors, 56-23, in Pasadena.
ODDS (as of 8/23, via Vegas Insider): UCLA -17.5
SP+ PROJECTION: UCLA 42.5, Hawaii 21.4
FEI PROJECTION: UCLA by 7.3
— Hawaii Football (@HawaiiFootball) August 22, 2021
As usual, the Hawaii Warriors will help to kick off the college football season in Week 0. This year, they will travel to the historic Rose Bowl to take on the UCLA Bruins in an ESPN nationally televised game.
Hawaii defense vs. UCLA offense
Offensively, UCLA lost their best playmaker in Demetric Felton to the NFL but they return quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson, leading receiver Kyle Phillips, tight end Greg Dulcich and all five starters on an offensive line that paved the way to an explosive average of 455 yards and 35 points per game (the Bruins also ranked third in the Pac-12 with 6.17 yards per play and 27th nationally in points per drive). Replacing Felton shouldn’t be an issue as Brittain Brown, a former Duke transfer who started two games last season including a 219-yard, two-2 touchdown performance against Stanford, steps into the full-time starting role. UCLA also landed Michigan transfer Zach Charbonnet, who ran for 850 yards and 12 touchdowns in two seasons with the Wolverines.
Last season, the Warriors gave up an average of 212 rushing yards per game and five yards per carry. This will be an early test to see if they have improved in that area. I’d expect UCLA to utilize the famous Chip Kelly up-tempo, spread offense to try and find creases for their running backs and receivers on screens. Hawaii must also keep an eye on Thompson-Robinson as he is a dangerous dual-threat. Thompson-Robinson seemed to find his groove in the offense last season which was the main reason for the Bruins’ more effective offense.
The first key to the game for the Warriors defensively is to communicate and get lined up properly pre-snap. Kelly has talked in the past about how he uses tempo as a weapon since his plays are not typically tricky or anything spectacular, making the pace create chaos for opposing defenses instead. I’m hoping that the Warriors’ own new up-tempo offense will have given the defense decent looks at practice for what they will be facing on Saturday.
Unfortunately, getting lined up is just the beginning to stopping this potential offensive juggernaut because it is also vital that the Warriors make tackles in the open field. The objective of the spread offense is to get the ball into your playmakers hands in one-on-one situations and not too many draw it up better than Kelly. The Warriors are going to need big games out of SPUR Quentin Frazier and safety Khoury Bethley, who will likely face a lot of one-on-one situations in space.
Thankfully, they’ll get help from the inside as Darius Muasau is one of the best linebackers I’ve seen pursue the ball in years. The Warriors play “small ball” on defense as Bethley, Frazier and Eugene Ford are listed as linebacker/nickel/safety, so I’m hopeful having that speed on the field will help to slow down the Bruins spread. Remember, last season the Warriors had more success on defense against spread teams like Fresno State and Nevada than power running teams like Boise State and Wyoming.
Hawaii offense vs. UCLA defense
With the exception of defensive tackle Osa Odighizuwa, the Bruins defense returns all major contributors from last year’s squad that led the Pac-12 in sacks and finished 28th nationally with a 7.8% sack rate. The strength of the defense seems to be the linebacking corps that returns all three starters including Caleb Johnson, who led the team with 44 tackles and 5.5 sacks in 2020.
The Bruins will also put a group of seasoned veterans out in the secondary as both safeties, Quentin Lake and Stephan Blaylock, and three corners listed on the Week 0 depth chart — Obi Eboh, Jay Shaw and Mo Osling III — are seniors, many of whom have double digit starts to their names.
The key for the Hawaii offense is to get off to a good start. Last season, the first in the new offensive scheme, the Warriors struggled out of the gates in almost every game. It seemed like it took about three possessions before they found their rhythm offensively. They can’t afford a slow start this week because it is important that they keep up with UCLA’s high-powered offense.
The Warrior offense goes where quarterback Chevan Cordeiro goes. At times during his Warrior career, Cordeiro has looked like the hometown hero that we’ve all been waiting for. As a freshman, he led the Warriors to multiple comeback wins coming off the bench to replace a struggling Cole McDonald. Last season, his first as the undisputed starter and leader of the offense, was a mixed bag. He led the team in both passing and rushing, but at times the offense stalled and was not as explosive as it was in previous years. As Warrior fans, we are spoiled. We are used to 400-yard, four-touchdown passing performances brought to us by the run-and-shoot offense, but that’s not what head coach Todd Graham has in mind at this point.
The Warriors will need Cordeiro at his best facing this veteran secondary and dangerous pass rush in order to pull of the upset. He’ll need to play like a point guard, making quick decisions and distributing the ball to the playmakers around him. Dae Dae Hunter should get the start at running back after showing flashes as a freshman last season and Calvin Turner Jr. will continue to be the most versatile playmaker in the Mountain West, lining up in the backfield, in the slot and even as a Wildcat quarterback to give UCLA different things to think about.
At receiver, the only locked up starting spot I see is Jared Smart. He had a relatively quiet year last season (36 catches, 320 yards, one touchdown) so I expect him to bounce back. At the other receiver positions, I think we see a lot of players rotating until someone establishes themselves as the guy. There is a lot of talent in the room, it’s a matter of who will rise to the top and make plays.
It’s important to remember, though, that last season’s offensive woes can be attributed in part to the shortened COVID off-season. The Warriors had to install a new scheme without spring practice and a shortened fall camp. They also conducted all meetings virtually, so I’m sure they were not able to get as much installed as they wanted. Coach Graham’s offenses in the past have been up-tempo. We did not see that last season and part of that is because of the trouble with install and limited practice reps. This season, with a full off-season under their belts, I expect to see the up-tempo scheme that we expected.
This veteran-led UCLA team looks to be a daunting first opponent, but I believe Hawaii has the ability to make this a game if they execute on offense and tackle well in the open field on defense. It will be a good measuring stick to see where the Warriors are before entering conference play and I’m always optimistic at the beginning of every season.
As always, let’s go ‘Bows!