Hawaii: The Class Clown That Occasionally Gets Good Grades
There was a time when you knew what you were going to get with Hawaii football: A competitive team wedded to the run n’ shoot. The toughest road trip in college football. An easy home win for mainland teams. Undersized defenders that could nevertheless pose problems in the secondary. System quarterbacks from the West Coast. Local Islander kids who played their heart out no matter how little talent they may have. The occasional Power 5 exile. Madden scores. The haka.
Hawaii was just a fun team for a fun place. If you want to see the epitome of college football, this is one of its bedrock places. These kids are there to enjoy life, hit the beach, enjoy a slice of paradise — have an adventure. And they do it on someone else’s dime by playing fun, backyard football.
That was until the Todd Graham years.
In just two short seasons, the serial mendicant and job-hopper took Fun Hawaii and made them Serious Hawaii. He ditched the run n’ shoot. He fought with administrators. He was a locker room cancer. Word got out: he chased a lot of Samoan recruits off the Islands straight on to the mainland and into the arms of BYU, Oregon State, Utah State.
Forget ohana. Graham didn’t even have aloha.
The worst part about being Serious Hawaii, is that they became Just Another Team — a mediocrity of undersized players, with a petty tyrant of a coach that was so toxic he was forced to resign before he could be fired.
Two weeks before national signing day.
The mess he left his hurried-successor, hometown hero Timmy Chang, cannot be understated. Serious Hawaii had been stripped of even its modest talent. It had a confused offensive identity. And the tradition of better-than-they-should-be defenses was now a shell of itself.
These Rainbow Warriors cannot hold on to the ball. They can barely run the ball. They really can’t stop the run. The secondary has relapsed into the Bad Ole’ WAC days. Even Hawaii’s trademark — its aerial assault — is a ghost of its once-proud self: this Hawaii team can’t even rack up passing yards in garbage time. And do they get a lot of garbage time.
But perhaps the most damning indictment of this would-be Lazarus Hawaii is not that they are bad everywhere (they are just bad most places). No, the Original Sin of 2022 Hawaii is that they’re boring. And bad and boring are how you get empty seats in paradise.
Pity too. I miss Fun Hawaii. That was a team that had me excited to fly from Kona to Honolulu every week — and now I won’t even bother turning on the television.
San Diego State: The Modestly-Successful Depressing Guy
“Fun” is never going to be a word used in conjunction with San Diego State football.
From its earliest days in the WAC until the present, the niche the Aztecs have carved out is that of being one of the best non-exotic West Coast teams. They’ve tended to run a Plain Jane offense. They’ve tended to have strong defenses. They play Serious Football in a part of the world (and in a conference), where football is a fundamentally unserious endeavor.
Oh, sure, San Diego State has had its luminaries — Marshall Faulk ring a bell? — but this was basically the Georgia of the WAC, and remains so now in the Mountain West: run-first, competent-but-limited-passing, play defense, quietly put guys in the draft...and come up just short year after year. (Even the best quarterback SDSU ever produced, Dan McGwire, was a historical bust.)
So, no, it’s not fun football. It’s effective football...when it works. And when it does not work — and it most certainly does not this year — then you are left with a visual assault of grim, self-seriousness ensconced in a security blanket of suck and playcalling so conservative it has a column in the Daily Wire.
If Hawaii is the goofball kid that somehow always manages to have a good time even when everything is going to shit, then San Diego State is the middle class kid with pretty good grades, a pretty good family, who is pretty good at a couple of things, stays marginally popular, and is yet never happy with any of it.
“It could be worse” is the motto of smiling Hawaii kid.
“Why isn’t it better” is the motto of the San Diego State kid.
The contrast in playing styles, in aesthetics, that historical je nais se quois makes for riveting viewing when both of these teams are playing well and the games are meaningful. The clash of cultures is one of the coolest things about college football. College athletics are about those clashes as much as anything.
But when they’re bad (and these teams are objectively terrible) then it’s just sad. Hawaii is so bad they’re not even having fun. And San Diego State — who rarely have fun any way — are just showing up for work and punching a clock...even as their clock is getting punched.
College football should never be a chore to play; even less so should it be a chore to watch.
Tale of the Tape
|RANK / STAT||HAWAII||SAN DIEGO STATE|
|RANK / STAT||HAWAII||SAN DIEGO STATE|
|PPG||121st, 17.4 PPG||116th, 19.0 PPG|
|Turnover Margin||98th, -3||10th, 0|
|Scoring Defese||130th, 45.4 PPG||71st, 25.8 PPG|
|Opp. Adj. Offense||125th||129th|
|Opp. Adj. Defense||126th||81st|
|Worst Loss||Vandy 63-10 or NMSU 45-26||Boise State 35-13|
|Best Win||Duquesne, 24-14 its only win||Toledo, 17-14|
Who ya’ got?
This poll is closed
San Diego State