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Hawaii should feast on Fresno State defense in MW opener

The names have changed, but Hawaii’s offense has a chance to remain fun and productive this season.

Quarterback Chevan Cordeiro occasionally overtook former Rainbow Warriors QB Cole McDonald during the last few seasons. He will operate behind one of the most experienced offensive lines in the Mountain West and alongside running back Miles Reed (908 rushing yards on 5.2 yards per carry).

But Hawaii is all about the receivers. Jared Smart had 1,129 yards receiving last season. North Texas transfer Rico Bussey Jr. managed 1,017 yards in 2018. The team has depth and speed there.

Fresno State’s defensive backs are among the MW’s worst. First-year Bulldogs coach Kalen DeBoer retained just one defensive position coach and brought William Inge from Indiana to install a 4-2-5 scheme. Just five defensive starters return.

Transfer quarterback Jake Haener has only 13 career pass attempts.

At least one person got Hawaii +6 on Sunday when the lines opened. But the Rainbow Warriors should be favored, so I still like them at +4.

Four more plays (home team in CAPS):

Kentucky (-4) over MISSOURI: The Wildcats defense just dominated Mississippi State and Tennessee. Before that, Kentucky lost to Mississippi despite rushing for 408 yards. Missouri freshman quarterback Connor Bazelak got praise for dicing Louisiana State’s defense. But his numbers, and Missouri’s by proxy, are skewed. LSU blew numerous coverages. Kentucky will expose the real Missouri offense. The Tigers rank in the bottom 10 nationally in opponent passer rating, which should help the Wildcats achieve offensive balance.

Florida State (+5) over LOUISVILLE: The Seminoles are 2-0 ATS when Jordan Travis starts at quarterback, covering against Notre Dame and North Carolina. Florida State also outscored Jacksonville State 41-10 once Travis entered the game. Travis has run for 6.4 yards per carry, excluding sacks. Louisville has a poor run defense and also has allowed 48 tackles for loss, fumbled nine times and thrown five interceptions.

Oklahoma (-6½) over TEXAS CHRISTIAN: The final score has not reflected the stats for the Sooners in several games. Oklahoma’s defense is eighth in the country in havoc, defending 21 passes and playing well against the run. Oklahoma’s offense racks up explosive passing plays despite a down season for the team’s offensive line and receivers. This is not one of TCU’s better defenses. The Horned Frogs offense ranks near the bottom of the Football Bowl Subdivision in long scrimmage plays and hasn’t had a receiver or running back top 82 yards in a game. If Spencer Rattler curtails his turnovers, I expect a double-digit win.

Penn State-INDIANA U61½: This is a decent stylistic matchup for Indiana. Penn State’s receivers are a huge question mark beyond Jahan Dotson. Nittany Lions QB Sean Clifford’s top target should be Pat Freiermuth, a great tight end who isn’t explosive. Reports indicate Clifford, a decent runner, will be expected to run less in the new offense. Running back Journey Brown won’t play, but the Nittany Lions have two other good options and should be able to bully Indiana on the ground. The Hoosiers have an offense good enough to get first downs and burn clock, but shouldn’t go wild against a tough defense.

Last Week: 2-3

Season: 14-16

Christopher Smith of AL.com and BetOnline is providing college football analysis for the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Follow @cfblocksmith on Twitter.

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