The 2012 college football landscape will look different with several teams having moved from one conference to another as college realignment continues to rear its ugly head. Two of those teams that have changed conferences are the Nevada Wolf Pack and the Hawaii Warriors. Both schools left the fading Western Athletic Conference (WAC) for the Mountain West.
There are many questions facing the Mountain West as to who might be the favorite but these two teams will certainly be in the mix. Realizing there are still nine weeks until the college football season starts and fall camp can have a bearing on how teams develop, let's take a look at what we do know and how each team stacks up.
Hawaii will have entered this game after playing the presumptive #1 in the country, the USC Trojans and then a school who has operated a football team for only two years, the Lamar Cardinals (an FCS school). That stark contrast might not offer a good glimpse into who the Warriors will be in 2012 - but this game against Nevada will. The Wolf Pack will be traveling to Honolulu after having played three games: at California, home against South Florida and then FCS school Northwestern State.
Hawaii OC now Nevada OC
This game will mark the conference opener for both schools. Interestingly, the Warriors offensive coordinator last season, Nick Rolovich, is now Nevada's offensive coordinator. The Wolf Pack's head coach Hall of Famer Chris Ault made changes to his staff that make Nevada harder to figure out. Of course, the same is true of Hawaii who has a new head coach in Norm Chow who has brought in an entirely new system.
Rolovich will bring a fresh throwing approach to Ault's Pistol offense that often relies more on the run. Cody Fajardo was the Freshman of the Year in the WAC last season for the Wolf Pack and he could be dangerous with Rolovich's tweaks to the offense by this stage in the season.
Pistol vs Warriors
But that will be against a Warrior defense that looks good, especially in the secondary. Combined with Art Laurel at linebacker who might be the best overall athlete on the team plus a defensive line that includes two potential stars in Paipai Falemalu (an excellent pass-rusher) and Haku Correa - Nevada's Farjardo may have his hands full.
The Hawaii defense will be all about speed but the offense will become a little more diversified than in years past with a balance of running and passing. The Warrior starting quarterback situation isn't settled, though junior David Graves appears to have an edge. By the third game of the year, he should be entrenched in the position. But how his offensive line responds could be the most important product of Hawaii's ability to move the ball. The Warriors are inexperienced but the talents there.
The running back circumstances for the men of Manoa are solid with sophomore Joey Iosefa and senior Sterling Jackson. The wide receiver corps is the offenses best unit led by last year's star Billy Ray Stutzmann. The Wolf Pack's biggest defensive weakness may be their line and their biggest strength the secondary so expect Hawaii to use their new ground game.
A slight advantage goes to Nevada but the Wolf Pack have not had a good history playing in Honolulu whether it was against the Warriors or in the Hawaii Bowl, having lost five straight. So this gridiron contest is a toss-up. And since it's a critical conference game, the outcome could make or break either of these two teams' seasons.
Nevada plays on the road the following week against non-conference team Texas State while Hawaii goes on a tough two-week road trip - first to BYU and then to San Diego State. The Warriors will have played three bowl teams from last year plus this years #1 in five contests to begin the season.
Watch for this September 22 game at Aloha Stadium to be an instrumental kick off contest for the remaining schedule of each school. And speaking of watching, the game will be telecast on NBC Sports (formerly Versus) live at 4:30 PM Hawaii time, which is 7:30 PM Pacific.
Sources - Reno Gazette-Journal, Star-Advertiser
Through thick and thin, Daryle has been a huge fan of college football as well as Hawaii, visiting there as a second home for over 40 years. Go 'Bows!
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