By Ferd Lewis
When football coaches talk about the University of Hawai'i's explosive offense, they say they are impressed with how it "spreads" the defense.
But another marvel of this high-octane offense of late is what it has done to the "spreads" on the betting lines.
For all the dazzling numbers the Warriors have put up this season and we're talking Top 10 in scoring (40.5 points), passing (393 yards) and total offense (515 yards) per game one of the most interesting measuring sticks of their potency has become the expansive point spreads.
You don't have to be a gambler to take note that some of the Warriors' biggest spreads ever against Division I-A competition have come this season. Take this week for example: the Warriors are 25 1/2-point picks over 4-5 and sliding San Jose State, a team they had been an underdog against in three of the previous four seasons.
Two weeks ago UH was a 31-point pick over Tulsa. Before that, a 22-point choice over Southern Methodist. And, a real eye-opener, a 19 1/2-point choice on the road over Texas-El Paso.
John Rapetti, who follows the odds and Hawai'i betting patterns as general manager of the California Hotel in Las Vegas, says the spreads have caught his eye, too. Especially the one at Fresno State last week: "It surprised me they were 1 1/2-point (underdogs) on the road at Fresno."
No longer. With what Rapetti calls their "quick-strike ability" in a 42-point first quarter against Nevada and a 22-point fourth quarter at Fresno, the Warriors have shown themselves capable of leaping tall spreads and vulnerable opponents in a single Chang-to-Komine bound.
A month ago San Jose State would have been a more competitive opponent. And, indeed, the Spartans upset Illinois in Champaign, Ill. But that was before San Jose State's suicide-for-cash schedule began to take a debilitating toll on a team with just 62 of a permissible 85 scholarships. It now ranks 107th among 117 teams in scoring defense at 38 points a game.
The Spartans are one of but two I-A schools playing their entire schedule 13 consecutive weeks, eight on the road without an open date. But they're the only ones who have been doing it at Washington, Stanford, Illinois and Ohio State.
These "body bag" games have helped keep afloat the cash-strapped athletic department Ohio State paid $475,000 for the opportunity to pound the Spartans and Washington gave $425,000 but it has come at a growing price. Over the last three weeks, the Spartans have given up an average of 49 points a game and were drilled 52-24 by Nevada, a team the Warriors hung 59 points on the week before.
All of which hints at the potential for another combustible combination Saturday night at Aloha Stadium.