The Memphis Tigers won the bowl game lottery and were rewarded with a trip to Honolulu to face the Rainbow Warriors in the Hawaii Bowl. They’ll take on a Hawaii team that’s embroiled in controversy after key players bolted for the transfer portal amid allegations of mistreatment by head coach Todd Graham.
Memphis opened as a 3.5-point favorite on Dec. 5, but the next day, SFGate reported on the toxic culture inside the Hawaii football program, and the betting line moved swiftly in the Tigers’ direction. By Dec. 7, the spread was -6.5 on most oddsboards and as high as -7. As of this Wednesday, two days before kickoff, DraftKings and PointsBet were dealing Tigers -8.5.
The total also swung from an opener of 60.5 down to a consensus 55.5 across the industry.
The Hawaii Bowl will be played at Aloha Stadium. ESPN has live coverage on Christmas Eve starting at 8 p.m. EST.
NCAAF · Fri (12/16) @ 11:35am ET
|Aloha Bowl , Honolulu, HI
Memphis Tigers (6-6, 4-8 ATS)
In Week 2, Memphis won at Arkansas State, 55-50. That marked its only road win of the season, as the Tigers went on to lose their last four away games.
Memphis WR Calvin Austin III opted out of playing in this game to prep for next year’s NFL Draft. That’s a big loss for Memphis, as Austin tallied a team-leading 1,149 receiving yards and eight TDs through the air.
Tigers QB Seth Henigan, who threw for 3,322 yards and 25 TDs, will look to target TE Sean Dykes in Austin’s absence. Dykes hauled in seven receiving TDs and averaged 13.7 yards per catch.
On the ground, RB Brandon Thomas led the Tigers rushing attack with 669 yards and eight TDs.
The Tigers struggle on the defensive side of the ball. Memphis ranks 96th in the country in team defense, allowing an average of 418 yards and close to 30 points per game.
Hawaii Warriors (6-7, 6-6-1 ATS)
Starting QB Chevan Cordeiro and RB Dae Dae Hunter will be missing from the lineup for Hawaii. Both players entered the transfer portal before the Rainbow Warriors learned of their bowl eligibility despite not having a .500 record.
That creates a huge void on offense, but Hawaii will now lean on its duel threat WR-RB Calvin Turner Jr. Nobody in the MWC had more all-purpose yards than Turner (1,523) and he tacked on 12 TDs to boot.
Freshman QB Brayden Schager is expected to start against Memphis in place of Cordeiro, who is headed to San Jose State next year. Schager threw for 615 yards, two TDs, and five INTs in spot duty this season. With a quarterback rating of 28.0, he’ll have to be better if the Rainbow Warriors expect to stay in this game.
Hawaii is also vulnerable on defense. The Rainbow Warriors rank 112th out of 130 teams nationally, allowing 446 yards per game.
Memphis Vs. Hawaii Pick
This is the first meeting between these two teams. In the midst of the current controversy surrounding head coach Todd Graham, you have to wonder how focused Hawaii will be and how hard it will play. It’s going to be tough sledding without Cordeiro and Hunter. It’s difficult to trust the freshman QB Schager against his counterpart Henigan, too.
Our pick: Memphis -8.5 (Caesars)
Also read: New Year’s Day Bowl Game Odds