The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We’ll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Today at No. 81: Hawai’i

Coach: Norm Chow (0-0 in first season)

2011 record: 6-7 (3-4 in Western Athletic Conference, tied for fourth in WAC)


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Look back: Hawai’i opened the 2011 season with a 34-17 win over Colorado. The team then lost a pair of games 40-32 at Washington and 40-20 at UNLV. The team bounced back with a 56-14 win over UC-Davis and 44-26 win at Louisiana Tech.
The Warriors lost 28-27 at San Jose State, then claimed a 45-34 win against New Mexico State and 16-14 at Idaho. The team had a 4-3 record, but it struggled during the final five games of the season. Hawaii lost 35-31 against Utah State, lost 42-28 at Nevada, lost 24-21 against Fresno State, beat Tulane 35-23 and lost 41-20 against BYU.

Four of Hawai’i’s seven losses last season were by eight points or less. As expected, the Warriors had a strong passing attack. The team ranked No. 12 in the nation in passing offense with 308.77 passing yards per game. However, the rushing attack was tepid and the defense struggled, at times, to contain opposing teams. Hawai’I ranked No. 80 in scoring defense, allowing 29.08 yards per game. The team had to cope with injuries, including starting quarterback Bryant Moniz missing two games

Head coach Greg McMackin resigned a year before his contract expired after the team finished the regular season 6-7. He led Hawai’I to two bowl games during his four-year tenure. McMackin’s departure opened the door for a homecoming. Veteran offensive coordinator Norm Chow, who was grew up in Hawai’I, took over as the Warriors’ new coach. Chow spent 27 years as an assistant coach at BYU. He also worked at USC, N.C. State, UCLA and Utah. He is considered one of the strongest offensive minds in college football and Hawai’I was 66-year-old Chow’s his first head coaching opportunity. Chow is the first Asian-American coach of a major college football program.

Offensive starters lost/returning: 4/7

Defensive starters lost/returning: 7/4

Key losses: QB Bryant Moniz, OL Brett Leonard, LB Aaron Brown, DL Vaughn Meatoga, LB Corey Paredes, DL Kaniela Tuipulotu, DB Richard Torres.

Top returnees: CB Mike Edwards, WR Billy Ray Stutzman, P Alex Dunnachie, DL Paipai Falemalu, OL Levi Legay, OL Dave Lefotu, WR Justin Clapp, DB John Hardy-Tuliau, RB Joey Iosefa.

Strengths: Chow commands immense respect in the college football world and it will be very interesting to see how he handles a program that has long been offensive-oriented. He has a history of developing elite quarterbacks throughout his career, including Jim McMahon, Steve Young, Ty Detmer, Philip Rivers, Carson Palmer and Matt Leinart. While Chow was known for running a form of the spread offense, he shifted to a pro style offense at Utah and is slated to implement the same offensive attack at Hawai’i. The Warriors work on replacing Moniz, Chow’s offense should help accent talented running back Joey Iosefa.

The Warriors’ defense has proven it can put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. If opposing teams could play with poise under pressure, they tended to make big plays against Hawai’i’s gambling defense. However, the aggressive style of play also forced a lot of turnovers. Cornerback Mike Edwards and free safety John Hardy-Tuliau are among the top returning defensive performers.

Weaknesses: While Chow’s name and experienced has helped bolster Hawai’i’s recruiting, it may take some time for him to implement his offense because the Warriors’ offensive line wasn’t especially strong last season and returns three starters who don’t have a lot of game-day experience. The group also dealt with injuries during spring practice, limiting how much they could work on learning Chow’s offense.

Outlook: Hawai’I faces a lot of challenges, with players adjusting to a new coaching staff and the Warriors transitioning to the Mountain West Conference. The team has a manageable schedule, with home games against Lamar, South Alabama and New Mexico, but it’s unclear how quickly Chow can lead Hawai’i to a bowl game.

2012 Schedule
Sept. 1 At USC
Sept. 15 Lamar
Sept. 22 Nevada
Sept. 29 At BYU
Oct. 6 At San Diego State
Oct. 13 New Mexico
Oct. 27 At Colorado State
Nov. 3 At Fresno State
Nov. 10 Boise State
Nov. 17 At Air Force
Nov. 24 UNLV
Dec. 1 South Alabama

Rest of the countdown:

No. 82 East Carolina

No. 83 Texas Tech

No. 84 Washington State