Unlike the 18+ inches of snow that have been dumped on most of Colorado, or the near-freezing temperatures plaguing the Hudson Valley near West Point, the Army football team has spent a vast majority of Thanksgiving week basking in the fair island climate. Hopefully the few extra days on site have helped the Black Knights acclimate to the time zone shift, since they will need to be at their best to defeat the Rainbow Warriors on the road.
Army is coming off a bye week after two straight blowout wins over UMass and VMI. The dominant performances in those games have put Army back into respectable rankings in terms of offensive production. They have also further solidified the Black Knights’ encouraging defensive play that has kept Army in every contest this season despite six losses on the record. As it stands, the Black Knights are third in the nation in total rushing yards (3,329 yards) and rush yards per game (302.6 yards), as well as tied for first in rushing touchdowns (40).
These are reassuring stats and trends heading into a game with an opponent that is susceptible to strong running attacks. Hawaii is allowing an average of 188 yards on the ground, and 421.9 total yards. The Rainbow Warriors aren’t terribly effective in defending other pass-heavy offenses from their Mountain West conference opponents, but Air Force still managed an impressive 353 yards on the ground when the two squads met back in October. The Falcons thrashed Hawaii to the tune of 522 total yards in the 56-26 win over the Rainbow Warriors.
Defensively, Army boasts superior stats on paper. The Black Knights are allowing just 19.6 points per game compared to Hawaii’s 31.8. Army is also giving up almost 100 yards less than the Rainbow Warriors (323.8 yards versus 421.9 yards). However, Hawaii has a legitimate passing threat in Cole McDonald along with talented receivers. That combination generally causes trouble for Army’s secondary. But McDonald’s passing is a double-edged sword - he may be 259 of 400 for 3,151 yards and 26 touchdowns, but he’s also thrown 13 interceptions. If the Black Knights can effectively contain the run and get pressure to McDonald while not getting beat over the top, there’s a good chance Army will add a few more interceptions to that count.
Hawaii has the Mountain West’s West Division locked up, meaning Army has the bigger stake in this game. If the Black Knights lose, they can kiss any chance of a bowl game good-bye. However, the Rainbow Warriors won’t take Army lightly especially after the Black Knights topped Hawaii in their most recent match-up, 28-21, in 2018. The circumstances along with pleasant weather should make for an exciting game, with the only drawback being the midnight kickoff for viewers in the Eastern time zone.