Every week, we take a look at some of the numbers underlying the Arizona Wildcats’ upcoming match-up. This week, we take a look at the insane travel schedule of the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors, Arizona’s odds of securing the win, and Vegas’ continued faith in the Wildcats.
20,000+ - the number of miles travelled by Hawaii so far this season
The Rainbow Warriors opened this season with a game against Cal in Sydney, Australia. Eight days later, they played Michigan in Ann Arbor. Seven days after that, they played UT-Martin in Honolulu. And now, a week after the UT-Martin game, Hawaii travels to Tucson, Arizona to play the Arizona Wildcats.
That is an absolutely insane amount of travel. Honolulu to Sydney (to start the season) is a little over 5,000 miles. Sydney to Ann Arbor is about 9,400 miles. Ann Arbor to Honolulu is 4,400 miles, and Honolulu to Tucson is just under 3,000 miles. Add it all up and the Hawaii football team has travelled over 20,000 miles just to play their first four football games.
Hawaii has always been forced to travel far more than any other football program - it’s just part of being so far from the mainland - but the Australia trip, in particular, makes this season’s travel schedule exhausting. Arizona has struggled early in games this season, but the Wildcats may be able to get off to a hot start on Saturday if they can take advantage of a jet-lagged Hawaii team.
85.4% - Arizona’s likelihood of winning, per S&P+
Bill Connelly’s S&P+ gives Arizona an 85.4% chance of winning this week. These are not particularly charitable odds. Hawaii won by five last week, at home, against an FCS team. The Wildcats should be, all else equal, 90%+ to win. But if the Grambling State game taught us anything, it’s that maybe the Wildcats aren’t a very good football team. The only upside of this game is that Hawaii isn’t very good, either, so Arizona should still be able to pull out a win.
Hawaii +24 - Vegas' spread for this game
The Wildcats are currently favored to win this game by 24. This is more optimistic than the S&P+ projection - those numbers put the spread at about 18 - but, as we’ve seen so far this season, Vegas tends to be more bullish on Arizona than the advanced stats. It is worth noting that, earlier in the week, this spread wasn’t even posted (likely because of the uncertainty surrounding Anu Solomon’s injury), so this spread has already priced in the fact that Brandon Dawkins is likely to start.
Even still, this spread seems aggressive. It took a late comeback and an injury to Grambling State’s best player for the Wildcats to escape with a win last week. At this point, I don’t know if the Wildcats could beat any team by 24. I hope Vegas is right and that Arizona will coast, but I don’t see it actually happening.
Still, it’s very early in the season. At this point, most teams have played two games (though Hawaii has played three). With such a small sample size, it is difficult to extrapolate just how good a team will be. Arizona State had trouble against NAU, but managed to knock off Texas Tech. Mississippi State lost to South Alabama, but put away South Carolina rather convincingly. And while Arizona nearly lost to Grambling State at home, it almost beat BYU at a neutral site.
So as dire as the situation may seem (at least to Chicken Littles like myself), it’s still early, and we have limited information about how good teams actually are. We can only hope that Arizona plays well this Saturday, locks up a win, and gives us some reason for optimism going forward.