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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, July 15, 2007

'Soft' schedule makes it harder for Warriors

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

The University of Hawai'i cracked an www.ESPN.com preseason football list the other day.

But, trust us, it isn't one you'll want to run out and celebrate. No foam fingers or shouts of "we're No. 2!! ... we're No. 2!..." for this one.

Not when it is one of the "least difficult schedules in college football in 2007."

It is hardly an enviable distinction especially this year when, truth be told, the UH schedule deserved to be No. 1 over (under?) Kansas, which doesn't play any lower division opponents. But such is the ill-repute of this one that there probably won't be a clamor for a re-count. This is one time Warriors fans may take the slight without rancor.

Mark Schlabach, who compiled the list, wrote: "Warriors' quarterback Colt Brennan won't have many problems putting up Heisman Trophy-like numbers against Hawai'i's schedule."

That's the good news. But, the flip side, he notes in a phone interview, "Playing two I-AA opponents early basically eliminates your chances of a Bowl Championship Series (appearance). I really think Hawai'i dropped the ball (on the schedule) because, to have a guy like Colt Brennan, one of the best college quarterbacks, you'd like to take advantage of the opportunity."

It is not a maverick opinion and, chances are, UH will be hearing a lot about the cream-filled softness of its scheduling lineup this season. With Northern Colorado, Charleston Southern, Idaho, etc., the "softer than a roll of three-ply (tissue)," lines are just getting started. Especially if the Warriors munch through it, notably the early part, as expected.

And, really, how could UH not expect to hear about it? The Warriors are one of just two 119 NCAA Division I-A teams both from the Western Athletic Conference that will deign to play two out-of-division opponents.

Forty schools will not play any. Five schools Michigan State, Notre Dame, Southern California, UCLA and Washington have not played a I-AA opponent since the NCAA adopted the divisional setup in 1978.

In a day of 13-game schedules except for this year, of course you can concede UH playing one out-of-division opponent per season. Even Ohio State has begun to do it. Times like next year, when UH opens at Florida and, two weeks later, plays at Oregon State, you'd like something soft in the middle between tough road trips.

But this year, when the Warriors already have to take hits for perceptions of their WAC schedule, playing two lower division opponents invites skepticism of their intent, if not credentials, as the ESPN.com piece underlines.

It is notable that the only other school doubling up on lower-division patsies this year is New Mexico State. With the Aggies, at least, you can understand the reason for desperation. They are but two seasons removed from the NCAA-record tying 0-12 season of 2005 and need wins, wherever they can get them. But by the time their record-challenging quarterback, Chase Holbrook, returns as a senior in 2008 to pursue some of Brennan's marks, they would be well advised to upgrade the schedule.

The Warriors, meanwhile, are coming off a school-record-tying 11-win season and return significant elements of a prolific offense. They are campaigning for a place in the Top 20 and taking aim at enhanced postseason possibilities.

They want to be recognized nationally. Just not for their schedule.

Reach Ferd Lewis at flewis@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8044.

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