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Cal v. Hawaii 2016 in Sydney: Q & A with Mountain West Connection

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With the return of the College Football season come our regularly-scheduled Q & A's with opposing team experts! This week, we asked Jeremy Mauss of Mountain West Connection about Cal's upcoming game against Hawaii.

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1. Hawaii's offense was kind of terrible last year. What are the reasons it could be better?

Part of the reason it was bad due to injuries but last year it was a little bit of that but last year was terrible in production. USC transfer Max Wittek got the start in his final year but he had 15 interceptions really hurt the offense. A reason it should be better is if this year's starting quarterback Ikaika Woolsey as he has experience but he is on what seems his 10th offensive coordinator, but he also has experience with starting multiple games over the past few years.

A tangible reason the offense will be better is that the running game that features a few good running backs and it starts with Paul Harris who was one of eight Mountain West running backs who had 1,132 yards and he is not even listed as the starter as Diocemy Saint Juste is listed as co-starter after sitting out last year. The third string back is Steven Lakalaka and he lead the Warriors in rushing in 2014, so their strength will be running the ball and that should help the passing game as well.

2. What would you say are the biggest strengths and weaknesses of the Warriors?

The running game is the strength for the reasons mentioned above. They have three backs who probably will combine for more than 2,000 yards and help in the offense. Turnovers were an issue and with the offense and running the ball more will definitely help in getting a turnover margin to at least even and not the minus 23 which they had last year.

Weakness is still the defense that was last in rush defense and middle of the pack in pass defense, and the latter was partially due to getting behind and teams just running and running. Having said that, there is a lot of experience back in the secondary with three seniors and a junior. However, on multiple publications that go four deep on preseason all-conference teams, Hawaii was absent in that area. They have the experience but they were not that great last year and Cal will exploit that.

3. How are people feeling about Nick Rolovich?

Nick Rolovich is having a blast with the team by injecting a lot of fun in the program to loosen players up. That is great right now but if there is not improvement that might not go over well with everyone. Also, Rolovich is a former player and coach with Hawaii so there might be some leeway on success, but it will be difficult to not improve off of what Norm Chow did the last few years.

4. How excited is the fanbase about this unique game, given Hawaii's already crazy travel schedule?

They are excited that this is the opening game and college football is starting for them a week early, and to the start of a new season brings hope that the year will go well. Having it in Sydney is a great opportunity for some fans who are able to head out to a game in a unique experience. Long travel for Hawaii is expected even in scheduled league games and going to Sydney is an exciting experience but then going to Michigan and Arizona in consecutive weeks will take a toll on this team, and possibly the fan base as it is expected the Warriors will not win any of those games.

5. Is Cal Hawaii's best chance a 'name-brand' upset? Why?

It would be between Cal and Arizona, but probably lean toward the Bears just because it is the season opener, Hawaii has a new look and also the location will cause both teams to be off, at least for a little bit. Cal lost Jared Goff to the Rams with the No. 1 overall pick and replacing that talent with Davis Webb who is new to the program are huge shoes to fill. Even with that, the odds of Hawaii pulling off this upset over Cal are slim.

6. What do you think Hawaii's chances are to finish with at least 6 wins and be bowl eligible?

This one took me a minute to find out what is rare in Hawaii. Lets go with finding a billboard in Hawaii as they are outlawed, so basically there is no chance of Hawaii making a bowl game this year. Part of that is because they need seven wins by playing 13 games.

7. How incessantly are Hawaii fans going to remind Cal fans about the NCAA tournament win?

Well, we do not cover Hawaii hoops as they are in the Big West, but one has to imagine the Warriors will take any victory they have over Cal and let them know at every turn possible.