Players to watch and predictions for Cal-Hawaii
College football is here, and for the first time ever the season will kickoff in Sydney, Australia when the Cal Bears and Hawaii Rainbow Warriors face off in the Sydney Cup. The two teams haven’t played each other since 1994 so the rivalry factor is at a minimum, but college football hasn’t been played in America since January and hasn’t been played in Australia since 1987 (BYU faced Colorado State) so people are smiling the world over. Let’s take a look at what’s in store:
What Cal must do to win
Head coach Sonny Dykes will be breaking in new starting quarterback Davis Webb, and so the first order of business should be handing the ball off to their talented running backs to take some of the pressure off the QB. Senior analyst Steve Palazzolo listed Cal running back Vic Enwere as one of his top 25 breakout players of 2016. Enwere forced 33 missed tackles in 2015 and his 105.0 ranks him No. 7 among returning Powr-5 running backs. Fellow running back Khalfani Muhammad is also highly elusive, as he forced 20 missed tackles last season and his 100.3 elusive rating ranks No. 10 among returning Power-5 running backs.
Cal player to watch
All eyes will be on Webb, the Texas Tech-transfer and now starting quarterback of the Cal Bears. While nobody is expecting him to be the next Jared Goff, he does inherit a high-powered offense and is a talented passer in his own right. In his sophomore year in 2014 Webb’s +5.4 passing grade ranked No. 5 among Big-12 quarterbacks so he has shown he can play at a high level. It will be interesting to see if Coach Dykes goes slow with Webb or if they come out throwing all over the place.
What Hawaii must to do to win
The offense should be improved this year with the addition of new head coach Nick Rolovich. The Hawaii players must execute their new offensive scheme close to flawlessly, as they don’t have the talent advantage against Cal. On the defensive side of the ball the key will be to tackle the talented Cal RBs before they can get going downhill and to see if any player can generate pressure on Webb.
Hawaii player to watch
In 2015 defensive tackle Kennedy Tulimasealii was Hawaii’s highest-graded player by a wide margin. However, Tulimasealii was dismissed from the team in June for violating the team’s code of conduct. A Hawaii state judge granted Tulimasealii’s request to defer his pleas in his criminal case which could allow for Tulimasealii to return to the team at some point and avoid conviction on the current charges as long as he stays out of trouble.
Running back Paul Harris will be the Rainbow Warrior to watch in the Sydney Cup. In 2015 he rushed for 1,126 yards in 2015 and averaged 5.7 yards per carry. Harris can also be used effectively in the screen game so look for Hawaii to rely on Harris to help their offense move the chains against the Bears.
Cal is trying to rebuild after their quarterback was the top pick in the 2016 NFL draft. Transfer Davis Webb has won the starting job in Sonny Dykes’ offense and can make a big statement with a good game in Sydney. Hawaii would love to steal a opening game victory away from a Pac-12 opponent but the Rainbow Warriors have a new Head Coach and new schemes on both sides of the ball so they should expect some bumps early in the season. The combination of Vic Enwere, Khalfani Muhammad and Davis Webb should prove to be too much for the Hawaii defense and Cal should win the game by at least two scores.