Bust out the hibachi and get decked in your green and white because the 2015 University of Hawaii football season is finally upon us.
The Buffaloes of Colorado come into town for a Thursday night showdown to kickoff what could be a make-or-break year for a man beginning his fourth year as head coach of the Rainbow Warriors.
And on that note, here are the five big questions to keep in mind heading into the 2015 UH Football season:
1. Will this be the last year for head coach Norm Chow? Simply put, Chow Time has been a failed experiment thus far. Coming off a third consecutive losing season, the program is somehow further below where it was from Greg McMackin's final go-round in 2011. Coach Mack gave us plenty of reasons to dump him, especially at his atrocious price tag, but things have only gotten worse. 2015 is a bowl-game-or-bust year for Coach Chow, who has brand new coordinators on offense, defense, and special teams and a transfer quarterback from USC. The buyout in Chow's contract was too high for the cash-strapped department after last season, but there shouldn't be much keeping new AD Dave Matlin from pulling the trigger in December if Chow fails to deliver this year. Public support for the coach is on life support, and it has showed with ticket sales. The UHAD cannot afford for this to go on much longer. Chow must win in 2015.
2. Will UH come to regret the road games at Ohio State and Wisconsin? With the department's accounting in the red, former UH AD Ben Jay was in desperate need of revenue to shore up expenditures. Leveraging his national connections, Jay scheduled not only one but two "big buyout" games against Big 10 opponents ON THE ROAD. The money UH will receive will no doubt go far, but these types of contests aren't called "body bag games" for nothing. In a year with a schedule that contains not a single bye week, these games against physically larger opponents, particularly one against the No. 1 team in the nation who's also coming off a national championship season, could be harsh on the health of the Rainbow Warriors.
3. Will the quarterback position be strong again? With names like Nick Rolovich, Timmy Chang and Colt Brennan, the QB position at Hawaii has long been one for national publicity. But now the 'Bows are receiving a different type of recognition, low-lighted by Ikaika Woolsey's 31.0 QB Rating in 2014, good enough for him to rank 123 of 129 nationally for signal callers in the Football Bowl Subdivision. Anointed in early Summer as the team's starter, Max Wittek now must live up to the hype. A transfer to UH after losing the starting job at USC to Cody Kessler, Wittek has a chance to rewrite his legacy for the better. Is the now older and wiser Max Wittek past all the errant throws that haunted him with the Trojans? He's had to sit out a year to complete the transfer, so there's no doubt a lot of fire within him to take his team back to glory.
4. Can UH get to seven wins? Judging by the schedule, seven wins is a solid possibility, but it will not come without several challenges. Of the 13 games on the schedule, we can realistically chop off three as almost guaranteed losses: Ohio State, Wisconsin and Boise State. All three of those teams will be ranked in the top 25 -- possibly top 10 -- and all those games will be on the road. In the same vein, there are two extremely winnable games at home against UC-Davis and Louisiana-Monroe. So, where does the team get its next five wins in the remaining eight? UNLV on the road is very winnable as the Warriors defeated the Rebels at home last year in a thriller. The team will be in very friendly confines on the road in Vegas as well. Next I would chalk up San Jose State as a home-win; UH traveled to the Bay in 2014 to defeat the Spartans. Colorado is next. The team journeyed to Boulder last season for a frustrating contest that UH could have easily won. The Rainbow Warriors opener is pivotal to set the tone for the rest of the season; no doubt the boys will play with fire when they debut the new green and gray tribal home unis. The next two most winnable games will be at home against San Diego State and Air Force. SDSU games have been close the last two years, UH both times coming up short a play or two. We already know what AFA will do; we can just hope the Aloha Stadium crowd will be behind the 'Bows in full force on Halloween. As for the three remaining games, Nevada will be incredibly tough on the road with possible wins at New Mexico and home against Fresno.
5. Will this be the last year for 13 games? The NCAA granted UH football the right to one additional home game -- and to gain additional revenue -- in order to help offset its uniquely high cost of travel. But with the Mountain West Championship Game taking place the first Saturday in December, traditionally the day of UH's last home game, the only way to squeeze in an additional game is by removing the bye week, as we've seen this year. While it's great for season ticket holders to get one more game in Halawa and for the department to make some much-needed dollars, it may not be worth the physical demands imposed on the team. A losing season, certainly one laden with an exorbitant amount of injuries, will force the UHAD to take a look at its scheduling policy.
Let the games begin. See you at the stadium!