The 2021 Hawaii Bowl is featuring the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and the Memphis Tigers. Hawaii finished the regular season at 6-7, just making it to bowl eligibility. Whereas the Tigers of Memphis ended the regular season 6-6. The Tigers finished seventh in the American Athletic Conference, with a 3-5 record. After starting strong with three wins, Memphis went on a three-game losing streak and traded wins and losses for the better part of the second half of the season. The regular season ended with a win for the Tigers though against Tulane. Hawaii’s season went very similarly, as the Rainbow Warriors also ended conference play 3-5. However, Hawaii ended its season with two wins, hoping to make the bowl game three.
2021 Hawaii Bowl: What to Know
The game is being played in Honolulu, Hawaii on Christmas Eve (December 24th) at 8:00 PM eastern time. Memphis enters the game as an eight-and-a-half-point favorite. This is the first-ever meeting between the two teams. Further, it is Hawaii head coach Todd Graham’s first Hawaii Bowl with the Rainbow Warriors. However, he has been there before. In 2010 Graham’s Tulsa squad beat Hawaii by nearly double digits.
It came out this week that several of the Rainbow Warriors are in Covid protocols. As of Wednesday, December 22nd, the game is still going to be played. The teams have not done the traditional joint festivities and have instead been having all luaus and gatherings separately. Hawaii will also be without starting quarterback, Chevan Cordeiro, and starting running back, Dae Dae Hunter. Both entered the transfer portal after the regular season.
Hawaii might be without a few players on Friday, but the Rainbow Warriors aren’t alone, Memphis will be without star wide receiver, Calvin Austin III. The senior has opted out of the bowl game to focus on the NFL Draft and a lingering ankle injury. He led the team in receiving yards with 1,149, total touchdowns with nine, and receptions with 74. The player in second in receptions is Sean Dykes with 48.
Players to Watch
Even though these teams have similar records and paths to bowl eligibility, the similarities stop there. Both defenses aren’t much to write home about, but Memphis might get the edge on Friday due to the number one quarterback and running back for Hawaii deciding to transfer. Freshman signal-caller, Brayden Schager will likely get the start in Cordeiro’s place. The freshman saw action at the beginning of the season and showed that he has a turnover problem. This could bode well for Memphis.
Eddie Lewis (Wide Receiver) – three touchdowns in the last four games
Dykes (Tight End) – averages 13.4 yards per reception; seven touchdowns
Seth Henigan (Quarterback) – 3,322 passing yards good for second in the American
Rodney Owens (Defensive Back) – three sacks; two interceptions; five passes defended
Calvin Turner Jr. (Running Back) – eight rushing touchdowns, four receiving touchdowns
Dedrick Parson (Running Back) – eight rushing touchdowns, averages over five yards per carry
Khoury Bethley (Defensive Back) – four sacks; five interceptions (NCAA leader); two forced fumbles
It will be an interesting match-up on Christmas Eve. Memphis has the edge, but there have been many surprising results all ready in the 2021 Bowl Season. The Tigers will likely take advantage of an inexperienced, turnover-prone quarterback on Friday. And even though Hawaii’s defense isn’t the best, it is last in the Mountain West in pass coverage, the Rainbow Warriors do have the NCAA interceptions leader. Look for Memphis to be pass-heavy and Hawaii to try to win it on the ground.
Photo courtesy of the Hawaii Bowl.