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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, May 18, 2007

Scheduling takes step backward

By Ferd Lewis
Advertiser Columnist

Let the guessing begin.

The University of Hawai'i football team by 50 ... 60 ... 70 or more points in the season opener?

Will quarterback Colt Brennan get in a complete first half?

Will he even set foot on the field in the third quarter?

Will it be the Warriors' first 1,000-yard total offense game?

These and other questions leap to mind in the wake of UH's confirmation yesterday that the Warriors will, indeed, kick off the season Sept. 1 against Division I-AA Northern Colorado at Aloha Stadium.

After months of hoping the Warriors might rustle up a marquee opponent to kick off this season of untethered hopes and high expectations they are served up another I-AA pupu. Progress this isn't.

Around this time last year the question was how would UH hang in with Alabama in the 2006 opener. Now it is how many will the Warriors hang on UNC?

Indeed, one of the last times UNC played a major college team, according to a school spokesman, it lost 103-0 to Wyoming in 1949.

For the moment, at least, a 65-0 victory over Prairie View's 29-man team in 1979 stands as the most lopsided victory in UH history. But the available evidence suggests that mark, among many, is living on borrowed time.

If UH could put up 68 points on Fresno and Idaho while pulling the starters early, what might the Warriors be capable of against a team on a lower level with 25 fewer scholarship athletes? If the Warriors slapped up 60 points or more against half their Western Athletic Conference opponents, what in the name of Steve Spurrier might they be capable of against a team that was outscored 107-24 in its final two I-AA games last season?

It isn't just that UNC is a I-AA member along with Charleston Southern, UH's Sept. 22 foe in Halawa. It is that the Bears are by far the weaker of the two. They were 1-10 last year and overwhelmed in stepping up from Division II. And they lose their 1,000-yard rusher.

The UNC game carries impact beyond just the opener. It means UH will not play a I-A opponent at home in the first five weeks of the season until Utah State comes to town Oct. 6. Moreover, unless a quality opponent is secured for one of the two remaining open dates, Oct. 20 or Nov. 3, the Warriors might not play a team with a winning record in Aloha Stadium until well into November.

UH can be excused playing one I-AA foe, something a lot of schools do to ease into a schedule. Although it should be noted seven schools that you'd like to emulate Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, USC, UCLA and Washington never have played one since the current divisional setup was created in 1978.

In a season when UH football asks to be taken as a serious player on the national stage, the schedule, as it stands now, is a sad step backward.

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