After narrowly escaping with a win against Tulane to close out the season, the Memphis Tigers secured a bowl berth for the eighth year in a row.
Memphis now heads to the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24, setting its sights on a seventh win to close the season.
Will the Tigers emerge victorious in a second consecutive bowl conquest or be forced to abandon ship?
Memphis Tigers get the edge on odds
One week out from the game, the Tigers own the advantage in this bowl battle against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, according to oddsmakers.
College football odds position the Memphis moneyline at , while Hawaii’s moneyline carries odds of .
Tennessee sportsbooks set the over/under at points. The over hit only five times in Memphis games this season and six times for Hawaii games, perhaps making the under a favorable selection this go around.
The game’s current spread projects Memphis to win by more than a touchdown, giving the Rainbow Warriors a -point head start.
For reference, Memphis went 4-8-0 against the spread this season while Hawaii went 5-7-1.
The fact that this game is on Hawaii’s home turf could factor into the score. The Tigers have secured only one road win this year. Hawaii, on the other hand, successfully defended its home territory four times this season.
In light of the Rainbow Warriors’ recent team troubles though, Memphis could have the perfect opportunity to capitalize on the instability.
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How to watch: The Hawaii Bowl
Who: Memphis Tigers (6-6, 3-5 AAC) at Hawaii Rainbow Warriors (6-7, 3-5 MWC)
When: 8 p.m., ET, Dec. 24
Where: Clarence T.C. Ching Athletics Complex, Honolulu, Hawaii
Radio: 98.9 The Roar of Memphis | ESPN Honolulu
Bowl win would be first step in righting Memphis ship
Just four seasons after being hired on as team assistant, Memphis head coach Ryan Silverfield is determined to finally lead his team to clear waters.
The 2019 season saw Silverfield rise to the rank of assistant coach and quickly become an interim leader when head coach Mike Norvell left for Florida State. Memphis then made Silverfield’s title official in time for the 2019 Cotton Bowl Classic — an introduction which ended in a 53-39 loss to Penn State.
The Tigers turned the tides in 2020, ending the season with a 25-10 victory over Florida Atlantic in the Montgomery Bowl to go 8-3.
But the Memphis ship ran into rough waters once again this year.
The Tigers forced four takeaways in their regular-season finale against Tulane but gave up 316 rushing yards. Memphis defensive coordinator Mike MacIntyre has yet to announce if he’ll coach the team in Hawaii after being named the new head coach at Florida International last week.
Memphis now heads into its eighth-straight bowl appearance — this time with quarterback Seth Hannigan manning the helm.
Hannigan — who is second in the AAC in passing yards — completed 235 passes on 393 attempts for 3,322 yards and 25 touchdowns against eight interceptions.
Leading rusher Brandon Thomas has 669 yards on 116 carries and eight touchdowns, good for fourth in the conference.
Receiver Calvin Austin III leads the Tigers and the conference (in regular-season play) with 74 receptions for 1,149 yards and eight touchdowns.
Before the team’s victorious Montgomery Bowl outing in 2020, their previous bowl win came as a 55-48 victory against Brigham Young in the 2014 Miami Beach Bowl.
Next week will be the first time the Tigers and Rainbow Warriors have ever faced each other in competition.
Hawaii reeling from recent head coach mistreatment allegations
Much like Memphis, Hawaii also ended a tough year with a win. This resulted in them barely squeaking into the post-season thanks to the NCAA’s addition of a 42nd bowl game.
Despite owning a losing record, the Rainbow Warriors’ six wins still made them bowl-eligible since they played 13 regular-season games. Had the NCAA not added another bowl game, Hawaii was on the short list to be one of the two teams left without a bowl invitation.
Hawaii’s struggles extend beyond the field, however. A recent report details complaints from several anonymous players, revealing how “miserable” conditions are under head coach Todd Graham.
Team accounts suggest that Graham fosters an environment of verbal abuse and favoritism. Reporter Marc Delucchi quotes one player as saying:
“Graham has killed our love and passion for football.”
The reports seem fueled by two major transfer portal announcements made earlier this month. Starting quarterback Chevan Cordeiro confirmed this week he’s heading to rival San Jose State. Leading rusher Dae Dae Hunter will join the Liberty Flames.
Hunter’s 101 carries earned him 651 yards and three touchdowns. Cordeiro completed 195 of his 353 passes for 2,793 yards, 17 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
Wide receiver Kilohana Haasenritter and defensive back Donovan Dalton also entered the portal, leaving Hawaii’s list of eligible bowl players questionably slim.
Hawaii Bowl history
The Hawaii Bowl debuted on Christmas Day in 2002 and featured a 36-28 Tulane victory over Hawaii. Since COVID-19 cancelled the 2020 Hawaii Bowl, the most recent edition was played on Dec. 24, 2019. Hawaii beat BYU 38-34 in that matchup.
Warriors quarterback Cole McDonald and BYU quarterback Zach Wilson were the MVPs of the game and both went on to get drafted in the NFL. Wilson plays for the New York Jets and McDonald moved on to the Canadian Football League and plays for the Toronto Argonauts.
With any luck, the Tigers’ talented team will secure one more college win before their most talented players move on to the big league.