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Barking Bowl Bets. Notre Dame -1 vs. Hawaii

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From our friend Vegas Kyle (comeonminers). He's 2-1 off of a horrible bad beat last night with TCU. Here's your extensive write up:

Sheraton Hawaii Bowl , Honolulu

Notre Dame vs. Hawaii

Line : Hawaii -2

Athletes--edge notre dame

Hawaii has actually started to recruit a better level of athlete. They are both faster and bigger than they are given credit for. You will also see Hawaii hit hard if you watch them play. A very physical style of play on the defensive side of the ball. Notre Dame on the other hand , doesn’t quite seem to have the caliber of athlete that you would expect based on their highly regarded recruits over the years. However , they are still , for the most part , bigger and faster than the Hawaii kids. There are certainly some spots where this is not true but I think that you have to give the edge , even if smaller than most would think , to notre dame here in this department.

Location-huge edge Hawaii
Simply put , a trip to Hawaii for a game is the toughest in all of college football. As I stated in my preseason thread regarding HFA , Hawaii is the team I give the biggest edge to in that regard. A lot of this has to do with the travel and some of it has to do with the vacation atmosphere in an exotic , beautiful location .. Some say it has to do even more with bad officiating and clock keeping. Whatever you feel the reasons are , the fact that it is a huge advantage cannot be denied. However , I do think there is less of an advantage in this particular game ( the Hawaii bowl ) in that the oppos ing team has more time to get the long plane trip out of their system , to get the time change out of their system and to get some of the scenery of the area out of their system in time for the actual game. So make no bones about it , this is a huge edge for the warriors but far less of one than a regular season game in my estimation. Hawaii has won something like 20 of their last 23 home games or something like that.

Motivation-- edge notre dame
There are motivational edges all over the place for notre dame in this game. Lets start with the coaches, Notre Dame decided to bring Weiss back for next year. This game has to have significance to him and the program heading into next season. Notre Dame has not won a bowl game in what seems like forever. I am not looking it up right now but I thinki heard this year during a notre dame game that it was the 1994 cotton bowl vs. tamu . They have lost something like 9 in a row since then. So there is motivation for the program as a whole to get this win. This is not a scenario with a big time program coming to Hawaii to vacation , they are coming on a mission. You also have some other factors that I think benefit notre dame here. They are coming off of a terrible offensive game vs. usc in which they managed just 4 first downs. Prior to that they had a humiliating loss to Syracuse. This team has a lot to prove and if you look at what they did prior to those two games you will find they had played very decent football the previous 7 games to those. Hawaii is not without its own motivation. First year coach looking to get a bowl win at home , a team that may relish the chance to knock off notre dame while they can and a chance to showcase the program on a day where this is the only bowl game on television. There is also redemption for the beating they took from georgia last year though I think two thinks make that less of a motivating factor here. The first is that I think the kids themselves realize it was not near the beat down that others claim it was and the second is that there was huge turnover of key players so it means less than it might otherwise. I just cannot imagine that notre dame does not come and play inspired here , that weiss does not prepare his ass off for this game. A loss to Hawaii in a bowl game after getting a vote of confidence and at least another year out of the administration will make for a very very very long and brutal offseason. A win and the program can atleast claim a baby step of progress.

Coaching -- WASH
I have a hard time giving either coach an edge in this one. I can’t say that I have seen enough of McMackin coaching on game day to make a really good assessment of him in that regard. However , their complete lack of discipline is not a good sign in my opinion. Sure , some of that is the attitude these dudes bring to the field with them but they are the most penalized team in c ollege football for a reason. 79 yards of penalties a game is just too much. Still , I don’t have enough information to give a really quality assessment of the guy. One thing that I do know , is that I am unimpressed with Charlie Weiss. Any time you have a season where different people are calling plays at different points , I raise red flags. For all the talk of weiss’ great play calling ability , I really have not seen it. So I guess , I am calling this one a wash.

Special teams--edge notre dame

Fg kicking-- Hawaii si one of the worst in the country at making field goals. Dan Kelly has been sickly bad this year. He is just 10 of 21 with a long of 41 and is even missing one of every 20 extra point attempts. Just no way to be nice about it , the kid has struggled badly. Notre Dame has certainly been no juggernaut at knocking them thru the uprights either. Brandon Walker is just 14 of 24 but has a much stronger leg than Kelly does. He has made a kick of 40+ yards in six different games with a long of 48. Definitive edge to notre dame in this department

Punting- There is no significant edge to either team in regards to the punters. Both kids are adequate averaging 40.8 (Maust -nd ) and 40.7 ( Grasso - Hawaii ). Unless there is something that I am missing here , I feel it is pretty safe to call the punting a wash.

Return game / coverage --Well we have to start by saying tht the Hawaii punt return game is20possibly the worst in the nation. Thev average about 2 yards a return. Notre dame is above average in this regard averaging roughly nine and a half yards per return. Coupled with the punters I think it is fair to expect notre dame to get a 4-8 yard edge of field position when trading punts. Kick off return games are about the same with both teams averaging a little over 20 yards per return. Overall , notre dame played tougher competition so I would expect any variance from those numbers to skew in favor of notre dame long term in this matchup.

Strength of schedule./ conference WASH
Hawaii did what they could as far as scheduling out of conference opponents. At florida , AT Oregon st and home to Cincinnati is a very tough group of games. However , the WAC is a very weak conference this year and that cannot be overlooked. Both teams have faced 7 bowl teams. I can’t look past all the bad teams that Hawaii has played , but they did have a 3-4 record vs. bowl teams this year. Notre dame was just 1-6 in their games vs. bowl teams. I am calling this a wash even though I think notre dame has a good argument for the tougher schedule.

Alright lets do it ….

ND pass offense vs. Hawaii pass defense--edge notre dame

Notre Dame , not surprisingly , runs a pro-set type of offense that relies on the power running game to set up the pass. Jimmy Clausen is the key to the passing game but he has been very inconsistent all year long. It seems to be that he either starts out well or he loses confidence. He has also struggled with interceptions and has already thrown 17 this season heading into Hawaii. The play makers are there for him on the outside as notre dame has a lot of quality depth at wr led by Michael floyd. Golden "Dome" Tate also has big play capability for the irish pass attack. For most of the year this attack was very prolific but suffered when Michael floyd went down with a knee injury early in the navy game. Since that time the irish have struggled in the passing game. Weiss went with the power rush game to beat a less than good navy defense that refused to commit men to the line of scrimmage after the injury. They threw for just 110 yards in that game. The next week they managed some big plays with tate and grimes and threw for 291 vs. Syracuse before the atrocity that was the usc game. My point here is that notre dame struggles of late seem to coincide with the loss of floyd who is expected to be back for this game. Seems unlikely to this handicapper that notre dame fails to have success tossing the ball around.

237 vs. sdsu who gives up an average of 213
147 vs. Michigan who gives up an average of 230
242 vs. mich st who gives up an average of 210
275 vs. purdue who gives up an average of 184
347 vs. stanford who gives up an average of 226
383 vs. North Carolina who gives up an average of 217
207 vs. Washington who gi ves up an average of 211
271 vs. Pittsburgh who gives up an average of 193
226 vs. boston college who gives up an average of 181
110 vs. navy who gives up an average of 215
291 vs. Syracuse who gives up an average of 225
41 vs. usc who gives up an average of 122 best in the nation

There are several things I want to point out here about the above that I feel are important.

1. Hawaii gives up 204 yards per game to the opposing passing unit. I bolded all the games in which notre dame played a defense that gave up 25 yds less or more per game than Hawaii. Since Hawaii has an average pass defense , a lot of games apply. But note that notre dame consistently defeats the season average of the opponent defense. The exceptions have great excuses as well. The navy game where Floyd got hurt and weiss changed the gameplan up a little bit and the Washington game where they were just 4 yards off washingtons normal total because they simply sat on a huge lead In every other game , they really significantly performed better than average.

2. I am a little bit fearful of what to expect if floyd does not play but I am willing to give notre dame a pass for the navy game and they were just completely outmatched by usc.

3. I love , absolutely love , the fact that this team did so poorly in their last game. Big step down in defensive opposition with motivation to not get humiliated again.

4 Hawaii struggles a gainst teams that pass as well as notre dame. Let me show you with simple national rankings what I mean. I have listed all of hawaiis opponents national rank in passing offense ( yardage as a barometer not comp percentage or efficiency ) from best to worst and next to each the word "win" and "loss" to illustrate my point along with points allowed.

Nmsu 9 win ,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,30 allowed
Boise st 12 loss ………27 allowed
Cincinnati 24 loss …….29 allowed
Oregon state 25 loss …..45 allowed
Notre dame 46
Nevada 52 win ………. 31 allowed
Florida 61 loss ………..56 allowed
Fresno st 66 win ……….29 allowed ( ot but fsu did not score in ot )
Utah state 77 loss …….30 allowed
San jose st 80 loss ………20 allowed
Idaho 85 win ……………17 allowed
Latech 102 win …………14 allowed
Wash st 106 win ………. 10 allowed

I hope that make my point clear without having to talk about it much more. I do want to mention that the loss to san jose st was a game in which Hawaii lost the turnover battle 0-6 and lost the game by just 3 points. I would also like to mention that the nmsu win vs. the good pass attack is merely the result of nmsu lack of defense. They rank ninth in the nation in pas sing but hve defeated just two fbs schools all year.

It is obvious to me that Hawaii simply prefers to defend teams that either cannot throw or scheme to run first.

I also want to point out how badly skewed notre dame season averages are in the passing game due to notre dames last game against usc .

One point of note in favor of Hawaii in my opinion is the quality of their defensive line. This is what makes them tough to run on at times and these guys can really get after the passer. They average 2.6 sacks per game. Notre Dame is giving up 1.67 sacks per game … so they rate to get to clausen a few times in this game. Also want to point out that in my opinion , clausen can be flustered and Hawaii is going ot hit your ass , sometimes after the whistle, So a concern would be clausen getting a little bit of the happy feet.

Another concern that I have seen is that clausen does not seem to throw a good ball in the rain or wet. It really floats on him. Hawaii often has a soft mist rain that falls there ( its really beautiful and contributes to the number of rainbows that we see there when we are lucky enough to get out there ) and I could see that bothering him some if it happens.

In case you haven’t figured it out yet , I strongly believe that notre dame has success in the passing game.

ND rush offense vs. Hawaii rush defense--edge Hawaii
touched on this earlier but the Hawaii defensi ve line is a really strong unit. Tough kids. They have given up an average of 148 yards per game at 4.00 yards per carry ranking them slightly below average on paper but they have played a lot of very solid running games this year including Nevada , florida , boise st and Oregon st. I first noticed this the very first game of the year vs. florida where they more than held their own. Notre Dame is averaging 113 yards per game at 3.4 yards per carry. They have struggled to open big holes and they have also struggled to make big plays in the rushing game. The result is a lot of small but down and distance productivity out of them. Veikune is the monster that no one knows about. This guy gas 9 sacks , 16 tackles for loss , 71 tackles and 4 forced fumbles. He will be difficult to block all game whether running or passing for the irish. Most folks do know about Solomon elimimian who leads the team with 112 tackles. I have said it many times in this thread already but I really think you will all notice it when you watch this bowl game… Hawaii hits you. They hit you hard and often. The irish don’t really have a featured back. They attack you with a three headed monster of Aldridge Allen and hughes. All three are capable but none of them dynamic and they are running behind an average rushing oline at best. I give a little bit of an edge to Hawaii in this regard.

Hawaii rush offense vs. notre dame rush defense--edge notre dame
when you are in the bottom 25 in rushing attempts , yards , average per carry AND you play in the WAC there is a problem. Simply put the team can’t run the football. Their best option is "nacho" Libre and that is not saying much. He failed to reach 100 yards in any game this year , topping out with 88 against the putrid nmsu defense. The team itself averages just 99 yards a game ( ouch ! ) and just 3.3 yards per carry. Expecting them to have a ton of success here would mean intervention from the ghost of king Kamehameha. Notre Dame defense vs. the run has been average at best . They give up roughly 143 yards a game and 4.2 yards per carry. I have to give Notre Dame a clear edge here. Hawaii just has shown neither the ability nor the want to run the football..

Hawaii pass offense vs. notre dame pass defense --WASH

We know that Hawaii likes to throw it around so it is time to see how effective they should be at it. Hawaii is throwing the ball pretty effectively with 245.5 yards per game and 7.2 yards per attempt. However , it might surprise you to know that Hawaii atttempts less passes per game than notre dame does. While Hawaii has put up decent numbers in the passing game the matchup is not a good one for them. Notre Dame has been rock solid in the pass defense department.

The irish yield just 194.3 yards per game through the air and a VERY impressive 5.9 yards per pass attempt. However , it has to be noted that notre dame s imply has not played that many pass first offenses this year. The exception might be purdue , who they defeated but who they also gave up 359 yards passing to… though purdue threw it an amazing 55 times in that game. Basically , what I am trying to say is that the notre dame pass defense is not as good as the numbers would indicate.

Unfortunately for Hawaii , their numbers are also skewed by the types of teams they have played.. Nevada has the worst pass defense in the country , latech #117 , Idaho # 107 , Utah state # 99 ,…. If you look at Hawaii performances vs. pass defenses in notre dames statistical neighborhood you find they were not nearly as successful … again outside of the nmsu game. I am not giving a lot of weight to that game obviously. Just 181 at florida through the air with 3 interceptions , just 154 through the air at Oregon st , again with 3 interceptions. Just 225 vs. sjsu with 4 interceptions , just 170 vs. fresno state , just 232 vs. boise st with 5 interceptions , …you get the idea .. They don’t really perform in the passing game vs. the better pass defenses that are similar to notre dame.

Some of this has been fixed up a little by Hawaii since Alexander seems to take better care of the ball on average than Funaki or Graunke did. But that is also something to keep an eye on here. Will McMackin give bowl snaps to multiple qb’s here ? With extra time to prepare does notre dame stand even a better chance of jumping warriors routes ? I think Hawaii can have some success throwing the ball but I would expect it to be less than their norm and to come at the price of an interception or two … or three. For that reason I am calling this a WASH. Stats without context would mean an edge for notre dame… but we are on it. Also want to point out that Hawaii leads the nation in sacks allowed. Ouch again

Prediction Notre Dame by a ten.