Hawaii and Tulsa are two of the most prolific offenses in the country, a big reason why the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl on Friday night is one of the most attractive of the non-BCS games. Who doesn’t love offensive fireworks? Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz and Tulsa quarterback G.J. Kinne are sure to oblige. But there are also some big-time players on defense to keep an eye on: Hawaii middle linebacker Corey Paredes and free safety Mana Silva and Tulsa freshman safety Marco Nelson. Here is a quick preview.
WHO TO WATCH: With so many good players in this game, it is hard to pick just one. But I am going to go with somebody off the radar, a player you will hear more about in my preview video. That is Tulsa all-purpose player Damaris Johnson. He led the nation in all-purpose yards for a second straight year and is set to become the NCAA career leader in all-purpose yards. He is small at 5-foot-8, but he is used in many difference places on the field, so watch for him.
WHAT TO WATCH: Offense, silly! Moniz and Kinne are getting the attention, but some of the more intriguing battles in this game are going to come between the receivers and cornerbacks. Hawaii receivers Greg Salas and Kealoha Pilares present matchup problems for a Tulsa secondary that ranks second-to-last in passing defense. Nelson is a true freshman, but he is capable of making huge plays. For Tulsa, Johnson and H-back Charles Clay could have a tough time against a Hawaii secondary that has 23 interceptions this season. Silva is tied for the nation lead with eight. Paredes also plays the pass well, so the Golden Hurricane are going to have their hands full.
WHY TO WATCH: Face it, you are probably going to still be wrapping presents on Friday night, and watching an entertaining game will certainly help pass the tedium of cutting and taping. It’s not often that Hawaii is showcased during prime-time, because most of its games start when most of the East Coast has gone to sleep. But the Warriors play an exciting brand of offensive football with a version of the Run N Shoot. Plus, Moniz will be back for his senior season and should be a 2011 preseason player to watch. Kinne also returns for his senior season along with 16 starters, and that could make the Golden Hurricane a preseason favorite to win Conference USA.
PREDICTION: I have agonized long over this one, because I think both teams can win. Ultimately, I am going with Hawaii 44, Tulsa 38 because the Warriors will be able to take advantage of a weaker Tulsa defense.