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Sheraton Hawaii Bowl keys

12/29/2010

You saw my preview and prediction. Now here are three keys each for Hawaii and Tulsa in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl:

Tulsa (9-3)

1. Balance. G.J. Kinne is the key here, as he leads the team in passing with 3,307 yards and rushing with 557 yards and seven touchdowns. The Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year has grown tremendously, and is athletic enough to make plays with his arm and his feet. Boise State threw for more than 500 yards on this Hawaii secondary, so that is a blueprint to follow. But Tulsa knows it cannot win with passing alone. Alex Singleton, at 249 pounds, could present a serious matchup problem for Hawaii because of his size and power. Damaris Johnson can also make plays in the run game.

2. Get after Bryant Moniz. Hawaii has given up 34 sacks this season. In its worst game of the year, a 42-7 loss to Boise State, Moniz was sacked seven times. The Tulsa defensive front is not nearly as strong as Boise State's, but it needs to get Moniz out of his rhythm and force him into making uncomfortable throws. If you come with a lot of corner blitzes, you leave yourself exposed against a talented Hawaii receiving corps. So Tulsa is going to have to mix up its fronts and disguise its coverages so it does not leave itself vulnerable.

3. Protect the football. Hawaii gives up its fair share of big plays – 53 that have gone for 25 yards or more this season. But the Warriors also lead the nation in turnovers forced (36) and interceptions (23). The defense has at least two picks in each of the past 10 games after not recording an interception in its first three games. Kinne and his teammates are going to have to be extra aware of a defense that is opportunistic and always looking for a way to knock the ball loose.

Hawaii (10-3)

1. Change it up. Tulsa is going to be so focused on stopping the pass, don’t be surprised if Hawaii starts out giving the ball to Alex Green, who is perfectly capable of breaking off some big runs. Green has 13 runs of 25 yards or more this season, and became the first 1,000 yard runner at Hawaii since 1992. In his 327-yard rushing performance against New Mexico State, Green was able to take advantage of gaping holes in the middle of the defense because the Aggies used extra defenders to cover the receivers. Tulsa has to watch for this.

2. Slow down Kinne. Hawaii did an exceptional job slowing down another mobile quarterback it faced this season in Colin Kaepernick. Though these two offenses are different, Kinne is a big threat to run and pass. Hawaii is going to have to bottle him up in the run game to make Tulsa more one-dimensional. If he throws more than he wants, then the Warriors have the ability to keep on intercepting passes.

3. Take advantage of Greg Salas. Hawaii always does, as he ranks No. 2 nationally in receiving yards per game (128.8) and third in receptions per game (8.15). Salas has 12 touchdowns this season. He needs three receptions to break Davone Bess’ single-season record of 108 set in 2007, and 39 yards to eclipse Ashley Lelie’s single-season mark of 1,713 set in 2001. At 6-2, he has a size advantage over both starting cornerbacks and strong safety Marco Nelson, so he could be in store for yet another big day.