10 p.m. EST
ANZ Stadium, Sydney Australia
California -19.5 — O/U 64.5
While most of the college football viewing world will be focusing on next week’s big games (Alabama vs. USC, Notre Dame vs. Texas, FSU vs. Mississippi, LSU vs. Wisconsin), the season truly opens tonight. But by the time of the first kickoff of the season, it will be tomorrow where the kickoff is taking place. California and Hawai’i have travelled literally around the world to begin the new college football year. At kickoff time, it will be 4 p.m. in Honolulu and 7 p.m. in Berkeley. But it will be 1 p.m. on Saturday and a gorgeous 60 degrees – perfect weather for a Saturday football game.
While it’s the first game and it will be hard to truly tell in advance how both teams will perform, the early indications are that this could be a very one-sided affair. Neither team has a geographic advantage (Honolulu is roughly 5,000 miles from Sydney as opposed to Berkeley’s 7,400 miles), but Hawai’i’s island identity might endear the Rainbows to the Aussies. But support from the crowd won’t open holes on the line, block tacklers or score touchdowns. And last year, the Rainbows struggled with all of those things. If there’s a hope on offense for Hawai’i, it will be the running game, where both RBs – Paul Harris Diocemy Saint Juste – are at least effective, if not more. And the Rainbows may benefit more from a Cal defense that gave up 30.7 ppg in 2015, and that struggled to slow the run, giving up more than 200 ypg. Only five starters are back from that unit this season, so facing Hawai’i on opening day may help them figure some things out before they hit the Pac-10 schedule. The bigger problem for the Rainbows is that, while Cal’s defense was bad, Hawai’i’s defense was even worse, giving up more than 35 ppg. And only four defensive starters are back, meaning that improvement this season could be only incremental. Cal is definitely pass-heavy, so we expect them to exploit a suspect Hawaii secondary. And because the Bears will have quick-strike potential, they will also have the ability to respond more readily with touchdown after touchdown. The Rainbows’ best hope is to slow the game down with an effective ground game and grind out touchdowns on long drives. They didn’t do that well in 2015, and there’s no visible reason to suspect that 2016 will be drastically different. The excitement of the day and the change in locale may boost the Rainbows adrenaline a bit, but by the end of the game, reality will set in.
Prediction: California 41, Hawai’i 21
Result: California 51, Hawai’i 31. The only thing we were wrong about was the total score. Hawai’i stayed close until late in the first half, where a key turnover and bad defense allowed Cal to take a big halftime lead. The teams traded scores in the second half, and Cal’s better depth and talent allowed it to salt away the win.
Record: SU – 1-0; ATS – 1-0; O/U – 0-1
Copyright © 2016 Doug DeBolt