Vanderbilt vs. Hawaii: Preview and prediction
Vanderbilt and Hawaii open their college football seasons together in Hawaii on Saturday night.
Saturday’s season opener is scheduled for a 10:30 p.m. ET kickoff and will be televised on CBS Sports Network. The Rainbow Warriors are in their second season at a temporary stadium, the Clarence T.C. Ching Complex, but this week they announced a sellout of 9,346.
Hawaii poses an interesting challenge for Vanderbilt, as the Rainbow Warriors brought in more than 50 new players and hired former star quarterback Timmy Chang as head coach.
Vanderbilt is trying to bounce back from a 2-10 record in Clark Lea’s first season. The Commodores have lost their last 7 games and are seeking their first win to start a season since 2018.
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The Rainbow Warriors are coming off of a 6-7 record a year ago and will be trying for their first season-opening win since 2020. Hawaii has won its last 7 home openers.
Vanderbilt QB Mike Wright started 5 of the final 6 games in 2021. He threw for 1,042 yards and ran for another 370 and collected 9 touchdowns. On defense, Vanderbilt will be led by LB Anfernee Orji, who was a third-team All-SEC pick in a preseason poll by SEC coaches. Last season, he led the team in tackles for a second straight season with 92 total stops, including 13 tackles for a loss. Orji’s 7.75 tackles per game ranked third most among SEC defenders.
While Hawaii has had loads of turnover, its defense is coming off a season where it ranked 127th out of 130 teams in passing yards allowed per game with 289.7, but eighth in turnovers gained (27), including 14 interceptions.
This is expected to be one of the bright spots for Vanderbilt this season, as it returns 15 of 22 starters from a season ago, as the Commodores have 7 on offense and 8 on defense. After all, the Commodores were picked by SEC media to finish last in the SEC East.
As he said at SEC Media Days, Lea said Vanderbilt will have a measured approach to deciding what is a successful season.
“So won’t place a win-loss record or won’t state a win-loss record; don’t believe in doing that in any semblance. We’ll say that every game that we play we’ll have a plan to win, and we’ll measure our results off our execution of that plan to win,” Lea said. “There are measurable things that show growth as a team, and there are things that can’t be measured. I think both are important. In the end, I’m a competitor, and I didn’t come to Vanderbilt to do anything other than win.”
Prediction: Vanderbilt 30, Hawaii 17