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2008 Sheraton Hawaii Bowl Preview

Hawai’i (7-6, 5-3 WAC) vs. Notre Dame (6-6 Independent)

December 24th, 2008 @ 8:00 PM (EST) – ESPN – Honolulu, Hawai’i

This is about the best matchup that the Hawai’i Bowl could hope for as Notre Dame brings its enormous fan base to the islands to match up against the local team. That means that the game will likely be a sellout, music to every bowl organizer’s ears. Notre Dame flies out to paradise looking to win their first bowl game since 1994.

Hawai’i, as expected, took a step back this season, breaking in a new coach and offensive lineup after last year’s Sugar Bowl run. The Warriors probably slightly exceeded expectations by qualifying for a bowl game and are a dangerous team at home, as a very relieved Cincinnati team can attest after squeaking out a 29-24 win last week. Hawai’i struggled to find consistency at quarterback early in the season but junior Greg Alexander took ownership of the job down the stretch and went 4-2 as a starter. Hawai’i’s strength is definitely on offense and their defense has struggled throughout the year.

Notre Dame enters this game a disappointment to its legions of fans, while the rest of America wasn’t surprised by anything they did this season except lose to 2-10 Syracuse. The Fighting Irish struggled mightily down the stretch, finishing 1-4 after a good start. Most of Notre Dame’s attack runs through sophomore quarterback Jimmy Clausen, who has thrown 20 Touchdown passes this year, while the Irish have struggled to find consistency running the football. Meanwhile, the Fighting Irish defense is better than people give them credit for and could be a big advantage for Notre Dame in this game.

Notre Dame and Hawai’i have played completely different schedules and are very different programs. Notre Dame certainly has more talent on hand than the Warriors, but Hawai’i has home field advantage and won’t be distracted by the beach and island festivities. That said, Charlie Weis is going to see this game as a huge jumping off point for next season and will preach focus to his players throughout their preparation. There is one more advantage Notre Dame has in this game: For the first time in a very long time, Notre Dame isn’t playing in a better bowl because of their name value, which means that the Irish should have a great chance to break their bowl losing streak. I think Notre Dame’s talented trio of receivers will use their size and skill to their advantage and the Irish will ride a couple of big plays and a stellar defensive effort to Notre Dame’s first bowl win since the 1994 Cotton Bowl under Lou Holtz.

Hawaii Bowl Pick: Notre Dame 31 - Hawaii 20


by Matt Baxendell Staff Writer

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