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Previewing Hawaii football by the numbers

Hawaii wasn't great last season and aren't projected to be very good this season either, but that doesn't mean it won't be a good tune-up game for Ohio State.

Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

As you can see in the table below, Hawaii was not very good last season and they're not projected to be very good next season either. It's not exactly a game that will improve the Buckeyes' out-of-conference strength of schedule next season, but it is a chance for Ohio State to work out any lingering kinks before the Big Ten grind begins.

2014 W/L 2014 F/+ 2014 Off S&P+ 2014 Def S&P+ 2014 FEI 2015 Proj. FEI 2015 Proj. S&P+ 2015 Proj. F/+
4-9 111 121 109 89 100 118 106

So ranking in the 100s in just about every category really isn't a good sign, but let's look for positives:

Hardly anyone spread out opponents more than Hawaii last season

An astounding 85.7% of opposing defensive tackles were solo last season. Using that as a proxy measure for how an offense spreads out a defense, Hawaii was the third-most spread offense in the country. And since there's not a strong relationship between spread offenses and offensive effectiveness, it's likely that the high number of opposing solo tackles isn't just due to not having tackle-breaking ball carriers (as Bill explains at the bottom of the post here). Hawaii had the 31st-most passing attempts in the country last season.

And while Hawaii's offensive and defensive S&P+ rankings weren't great last season, they did recently hire new offensive and defensive coordinators!

Hawaii and Norm Chow have underachieved, but...

Using Bill's data on second-order wins, Norm Chow was the 36th-worst underachiever among college football coaches with at least three seasons of coaching experience over the last ten years. That underachievement translates to about a half game per season.

However, that could also mean that the team is statistically a little better than the records indicate -- and with new coordinators, who knows if the talent will start translating to more wins? (To be fair, Hawaii actually overachieved last season by 1.3 games, but in general Hawaii underachieves.)

Returning starter impact is poor, but...

Looking at 2015 S&P+ projections, Hawaii is one of the worst in the country in terms of returning starter impact. But that's really just increased opportunity for the incoming recruits, right? The incoming class is small and full of mostly two-star guys, but it does include four three-star players.

Hawaii was relatively better against the run

Hawaii's defense was 114th in defensive S&P+, but was ranked 76th against the run, so that's not terrible. Passing downs were certainly an issue, but Hawaii was only mediocre on standard downs. In fact, the defense was 59th on success rate. So the defense was really just geared to stop standard down run plays, and the deficiency (passing downs, where they were among the worst in preventing big plays) is easy to see, at least.


So that's not exactly a rosy picture for 2015 Hawaii, but this should be an excellent tune-up game for the Buckeyes to work on standard downs rushing offense, see if the Buckeye offense can find a big-play replacement for Devin Smith, and for the defense to gain some confidence.