Nick Rolovich hired a fortune teller at Mountain West Football Media Day this year, but he did not require crystal ball-reading assistance when he first set eyes on the University of Hawaii’s 2019 schedule nearly four years ago.
Upon taking the head coaching job in November 2015, Rolovich immediately took note of the assembled nonconference gauntlet of Arizona, Oregon State, Washington and Army for what would be his fourth season. Nor did he miss Boise State coming up in the conference scheduling rotation.
“I guess we’d better be pretty good by then,” Rolovich observed.
Well, 2019 is here and the ’Bows’ improvement will be tested early by a schedule that might be UH’s toughest in his tenure.
The ’Bows figure to be betting underdogs in each of their first three games and need to “steal” one of them to be on a track for seven victories and bowl eligibility.
Aug. 24 • 4:30 p.m. • Aloha Stadium
The opener will salute the memory of Dick Tomey, who coached at both UH and UA and died this year.
If Tomey were with us, one piece of advice he’d surely give UH is to cover tight the kickoff. In Arizona’s last appearance here against the ’Bows, 1998, Chris McAlister took the game’s opening kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown.
As an omen it was huge, starting the ’Bows on the way to an 0-12 season and Arizona to a 12-1 campaign.
The Wildcats of 2019 are blessed with speed, especially in the form of quarterback (Kahlil Tate) and running back-kick returner J.J. Taylor.
Score: Arizona 31, UH 27
Sept. 7 • 6 p.m. • Aloha Stadium
This became more than just your run-of-the-mill nonconference game last year when Rolovich took to Twitter to damn the Beavers for sending a recruiting packet to a UH player at the school’s address.
“My apologies for our players not being able to attend your spring game,” Rolovich tweeted. “Ours was the same day, bad timing. Quick question, in the 203 years of coaching (by the combined OSU staff), none of you realized you couldn’t actively recruit another school’s players? Sent to campus? #leakydam #sloppybeavers.”
The NCAA assessed OSU a secondary violation for what the Beavers said was an “accidental” contact.
As for the final reckoning.
Score: UH 28, Oregon State 24
Sept. 14 • 1:30 p.m. • Seattle
This game was originally scheduled for 2015 but was pushed back at UH’s request so the ’Bows could collect a $1.2 million paycheck at Ohio State that season, instead.
Turns out 2015 would have been a better year to go play in Seattle since the Huskies were just 7-6 that year and are top-12 ranked in the preseason this year.
Score: Washington 34, UH 17
Sept. 21 • 6 p.m. • Aloha Stadium
Central Arkansas’ arrival couldn’t come at a better time for UH given the early degree of difficulty in the schedule. Which is, of course, why you play a Football Championship Subdivision team.
In their Aloha Stadium debut, the Bears of the Southland Conference threw a scare into the Rainbow Warriors before falling 25-20 in 2009.
This meeting shouldn’t be that close.
Score: UH 37, Central Arkansas 20
Sept. 28 • TBA • Reno
If you want to point to a pivotal game on UH’s schedule likely to determine whether the Rainbow Warriors reach eligibility, this is it.
The Mountain West Conference opener either starts the ’Bows off right in the conference heading into an open date or it immediately puts them behind the eight ball.
Winning in Reno has been quite a chore of late for the Rainbow Warriors, who have lost five in a row in the Biggest Little City since the magical 2007 march to the Sugar Bowl.
That needs to change.
Score: UH 31, Nevada 24
At Boise State
Oct. 12 • TBA • Boise, Idaho
The Rainbow Warriors haven’t won in Boise in seven tries, and No. 8 doesn’t look to be the magic number, either.
Even with a new field, the Smurf Turf hex holds.
Score: Boise State 27, UH 21
Oct. 19 • 5 p.m. • Aloha Stadium
The last time the Falcons flew through Aloha Stadium, UH football hit one of its lowest points since the infamous 0-12 bagel season of 1998.
The 58-7 loss in 2015 cost Norm Chow his job less than 24 hours later, and by season’s end UH skidded to a 3-10 finish.
This time the ’Bows should make Air Force one of the high points in the schedule.
Score: UH 30, Air Force 21
At New Mexico
Oct. 26 • 10 a.m. • Albuquerque
There really is no valid explanation for how the Lobos, of all teams, have managed to win the last seven games in a row against UH. Especially in recent years.
That should finally change in the Land of Enchantment.
Score: UH 34, New Mexico 20
Nov. 2 • 6 p.m. • Aloha Stadium
You might be surprised to know that UH has played more games (51) against the Bulldogs than any other team in its history.
But it shouldn’t be a shock that the Bulldogs are assuming the role of the ’Bows’ biggest West Division nemesis, winning seven of the past eight games.
Score: Fresno State 31, UH 28
San Jose State
Nov. 9 • 6 p.m. • Aloha Stadium
After requiring a school-record five overtime periods and more than four hours to beat the Spartans last year in San Jose, this one should be more manageable.
The Spartans remain one of UH’s most beatable foes.
Score: UH 36, San Jose State 20
At Nevada-Las Vegas
Nov. 16 • 11 a.m. • Las Vegas
There will be few tears shed by the Rainbow Warriors for their 14th — and last — appearance in Sam Boyd Stadium.
After some frustrating losses there and an overall 4-9 record, the ’Bows will be glad to take the series to Allegiant Stadium in 2021, the $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat home of the Raiders and Rebels.
To mark the occasion, UH clinches bowl eligibility with its seventh victory of the season.
Score: UH 37, UNLV 27
San Diego State
Nov. 23 • 6 p.m. • Aloha Stadium
After their first victory in nine tries at San Diego State last year, the ’Bows go for another rarity, their first wins in back-to-back years over the Aztecs across both sites since 1981.
Score: San Diego State 27, UH 21
Nov. 30 • 7:30 p.m. • Aloha Stadium
When UH played the Naval Academy last year at Aloha Stadium, Rolovich had members of the Army on the Rainbow Warriors’ sideline for support.
After winning that one, does he welcome the Navy aboard for this one?
Score: Army 24, UH 21
Reach Ferd Lewis at email@example.com or 529-4820.