2008 Hawaii Bowl Preview
by Matt Severance - 12/19/2008
Hawaii (7-6) vs. Notre Dame (6-6)
Conference matchup: WAC vs. Independent
When: Dec. 24, 8 p.m. (ESPN)
Location: Aloha Stadium, Honolulu
Spread: Notre Dame -1, total at 48.5
Line movement: The money has definitely come in on the Irish, as they opened as underdogs between 1.5-2 points but now are favored. The total has been relatively unchanged.
Bowl history: The Irish are 13-15 in bowls, and it has been well documented that they haven't won one since the Cotton Bowl on New Year's Day in 1994. That's an NCAA-record nine losses in a row. Notre Dame didn't qualify for a bowl last year and was routed in its last bowl by LSU, 41-14, on Jan. 3, 2007, in the Sugar Bowl - Brady Quinn's final game. The Warriors are 5-3 in bowls but suffered an embarrassing loss in last season's Sugar Bowl to Georgia. The Warriors have played in the Hawaii Bowl four times since its inception in 2002, winning three.
How they got here: The Warriors opened the season 1-3 and were looking for a QB to replace Colt Brennan. Hawaii closed the season with three wins in four games, and that loss was a hard-fought 29-24 home setback to No. 13 Cincinnati. Notre Dame lost four of its past five games, including a shocking home defeat to an awful Syracuse team and a 38-3 rout at USC when the Irish didn't get a first down until late in the third quarter.
Key trends: Hawaii is 4-0 ATS in its past four games as an underdog. The under is 7-2 in the Warriors' past nine non-conference games. Notre Dame is 0-6 ATS in its past six bowls. The over is 6-0 ATS in the Irish's past six games as a favorite of 0.5-3.0.
Stability at QB: The Warriors found it when they inserted Greg Alexander as the starter for good (he started the opener at Florida but then went to the bench). At the time, they were 3-4, but they finished 4-2. Alexander threw 12 touchdown passes in those six games, including at least two in five of them. He only had two interceptions during that span. The junior has thrown for 1,142 yards, nine TDs and completed 65.9 percent of his passes over his last four games.
There is one problem for Hawaii: protecting Alexander. The Warriors are 118th out of 119 teams when it comes to protecting the QB, having allowed 41 sacks on the season.
Notre Dame, meanwhile, held seven of its 12 opponents below 200 passing yards, but yielded 27.2 points over its final five games.
Woeful Irish offense: Notre Dame's offense definitely regressed late in the season, with the low point coming in that Southern Cal game. Sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen threw eight interceptions and just two touchdowns in the final four games.
Part of that could have been the absence of freshman WR Michael Floyd, who missed the Irish's final three games with a sprained knee. He set a freshman school record for receptions with 46, touchdown catches with seven and receiving yards with 702. He also had four 100-yard games. With him out, teams could double-team fellow WR Golden Tate, who is Notre Dame's best playmaker.
In the nine games Floyd played in, Notre Dame averaged 259 yards per game passing. In the three games he missed, the Irish averaged just 147 passing yards. Floyd expects to return for the bowl game, which should be a boost. The Irish need him, because they still cannot run the ball.
Hawaii's defense allows 203.85 passing yards per game, 54th nationally.
Overview: Obviously there will be a massive home-field advantage for Hawaii, and those fans will be pumped to see Notre Dame, which is in the islands for the first time since 1997 (the Irish and Hawaii have met twice, both in Hawaii, with Notre Dame winning both). Irish fans generally travel well and bring big followings all over the country, but with the economy what it is and this game being on Christmas Eve, you can bet it will be at least 85 percent Hawaii fans, if not higher. The Warriors win this one fairly easily.