The FCS gets a shot at a winnable game against the FBS when the Panthers, who upset a Big 12 team last year, visit the Rainbows Saturday night (midnight ET). Here's our take on this late-night match-up, with a free college football pick thrown in, just for following along.
The Betting Line
As of Friday morning this game had not yet been lined, as oddsmakers pondered what to do. Are they thinking about chalking an FCS team playing at an FBS program?
Hawaii is off to an 0-2 start to this season, its third under Coach Chow, but it's also 2-0 ATS after playing two Pac-12 teams. The Rainbows opened with a 17-16 home loss to Washington, then lost at home to Oregon State 38-30. But Hawaii covered as 17-point home dogs against the Huskies and as 10-point home dogs against the Beavers.
The Rainbows out-gained Washington 424-336, out-rushed the Huskies 217-154 and won the time-of-possession battle 34/26. They also didn't turn the ball over. That's how you cover point-spreads.
Hawaii then got out-gained by Oregon State 464-336, lost that TOP battle 36/24 and just generally got out-played, but came up with a back-door cover, rallying from down 38-7 to get within one score with a minute and a half remaining.
The Rainbows returned 13 starters this season from a team that went 1-11 last year. Seven starters were back on offense, including last year's top two rushers and four along the offensive line. But they had to replace their starting QB and two starting receivers. And six starters were back on defense, although they lost last year's top four tacklers.
Hawaii took two hits last week when RB Joey Iosefa, who had already accounted for 230 yards from scrimmage and four touchdowns this season, suffered a broken ankle, and LB Jerrol Garcia-Williams tore an ACL; word is Iosefa will miss at least the next month, while Garcia-Williams is gone for the year.
Northern Iowa began its season with a tough 31-23 loss at what's supposed to be a pretty good Iowa team, covering as 17-point road dogs. The Panthers then had last week off.
UNI out-gained the Hawkeyes 405-401 but got out-rushed 151-25 and lost the time-of-possession battle by a 33/27 margin. The Panthers also got flagged for 16 penalties for 128 yards.
Northern Iowa returned 16 starters this season from a team that went 7-5 last year. Ten starters came back on offense, including junior QB Sawyer Kollmorgen (21 career starts) and four along the offensive line. And six starters came back on defense, including all three linebackers.
Panthers-Rainbows Betting Trends
The last time UNI played an FBS team it beat Iowa State in last season's opener 28-20 in Ames as nine-point underdogs. The Panthers out-rushed the Cyclones that night 228-168. Iowa State ended up going 3-9 last year, two games better than Hawaii.
The last time the Rainbows played an FCS team they got their first victory for Coach Chow, a 54-2 decision over Lamar two Septembers ago.
Free NCAAF Pick
This is a tough one, but we give the edge to Northern Iowa, after a good performance against Iowa, and a week off. So while we don't know what the spread is, as of this writing, we'll go with the Panthers to win this game outright for our free college football pick.