43ºF

Michigan football's first opponent, Hawaii, in action Friday as season begins

Hawaii vs. California in Australia Friday night

photo
(Getty Images)

College football season is finally back, and Michigan fans have a reason to stay up late Friday and soak it all in.

The Hawaii Rainbow Warriors and the Cal Golden Bears will kick off the season at ANZ Stadium in Sydney, Australia, Friday at 10 p.m. Why does this game matter to Michigan? It will give the Wolverines an early look at their Week 1 opponent.

READ: Will Michigan go undefeated at home?

When most teams take the field for the first time in a season, they do so without any concrete evidence of what to expect from opposing teams and players. This season, Michigan will have a full game's worth of tape to digest.

On the flip side, the Rainbow Warriors should be sharper by Week 2 with a very unusual season opener in a different country behind them. There are advantages to having a full week of post-game practices leading up to a game, but this week comes under unique circumstances.

Hawaii was an unimpressive team last season, finishing 3-10 with wins over Colorado, UC Davis and UL Monroe. In two games against Big Ten opponents, Ohio State and Wisconsin, Hawaii was outscored 66-0.

The Rainbow Warriors turned to former Hawaii quarterback Nick Rolovich to get the reeling program back on its feet. Rolovich spent the last four seasons as the offensive coordinator at Nevada and replaces interim coach Chris Naeole -- who took over for Norm Chow after he was fired Nov. 1 of last season -- as the head coach at Hawaii.

Rolovich's first taste of head coaching could be a tough one. The Rainbow Warriors went just 11-39 in Chow's tenure, never finishing with more than four wins in a season.

Rolovich let four quarterbacks duke it out for the starting spot during camp but eventually settled on fifth-year senior Ikaika Woolsey. Woolsey has played a variety of roles during his career, starting for the Rainbow Warriors as a redshirt sophomore in 2014 but taking a back seat to Max Wittek last year.

As a starter in 2014, Woolsey completed roughly half of his pass attempts while throwing for 2,538 yards, 13 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He also rushed 110 times for 203 yards.

Rolovich made the safe pick with Woolsey, a veteran who has played in 37 games throughout his career. Woolsey can make plays on the ground, but his accuracy and decision making won't turn any heads.

RELATED: Squashing Michigan's 'easy schedule' myth

Despite the lack of an overpowering presence at quarterback, Hawaii goes into the season with some optimism on offense, thanks to the return of Paul Harris. Harris was the team's best weapon last season, rushing for 1,132 yards on 197 carries.

Harris will have to go through a bit of an adjustment period as Hawaii tries to fill the hole left by Ben Clarke at left tackle. Clarke was named Hawaii's MVP last season and is an aspiring NFL player. Without him leading the ground attack, Hawaii could get off to a slow start.

In the receiving game, Hawaii returns eight of nine players (Quinton Pedroza) who caught at least 10 passes last year.  Here's a look at Woolsey's top targets:

Hawaii was a disaster defensively in 2015, allowing 449 yards per game -- good for 107th in FBS. The secondary was average -- 45th in FBS -- but the defensive line was a sieve, allowing 239.8 rushing yards per game -- 120th in FBS.

In an effort to shore up the defensive side of the ball, Hawaii brought back Kevin Lempa, who served as the school's defensive coordinator from 2000 to 2002. Lempa spent 2015 coaching the secondary at Boston College, which finished with the country's best defense in terms of opponent yards per game (254).

Coaching under current Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown, Lempa led Boston College to the eighth best pass defense in college football. Now that he's in charge of the entire defense, his greatest challenge will be bulking up a front seven that got bullied last season.

Michigan will obviously be hoping for a Hawaii upset, but Cal enters the game as a huge favorite. Despite the loss of No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff -- who threw for over 3,500 yards last season -- Cal is expected to be a fringe bowl team this season, putting the program well ahead of Hawaii. But in the first game of the season, with a ton of vacancies to fill, Cal could struggle.

Anything can happen. College football season is here.