Well, #theReturn is finally over. A long journey is finally ending as UAB will open the 2017 season this Saturday at Legion Field. No one really knows what to expect from the Blazers, but fans are ready for the season to start.
Here at The Daily Dragon, we decided to share our thoughts and give our season predictions.
Starting with Game 1, the Alabama A&M Bulldogs — probably the most important game on the schedule. This game is going to be packed. Sam Hunt will be in town Friday night to kick-off the weekend, but I really don’t see the Blazers having much trouble in this one. The game may start out a little sloppy, but after the jitters wear off UAB should be fine. Expect some big hits too as this will be the first team UAB has played against in three years. The football season on the Southside starts 1-0.
The following week is the first road game of the season at Ball State. This is a tricky game to pick and I really think it is a toss up. I could see it going either way, but I’ll give Ball State the advantage only because they have the home field. After week 2, UAB is 1-1.
The following week UAB concludes three straight non-conferences games with Coastal Carolina. The Chanticleers are making their Division 1 debut this season so this will be a good game for the Blazers to see how they measure up. A high noon kick in Birmingham, I expect UAB to have the upper hand in this one. Heading into conference play they stand at 2-1.
The first three games are very winnable for UAB. I could easily see them being 3-0 which would be huge.
Since UAB did not play any games the past two years, I’ll be honest and say I did not scout Conference USA very closely. With that being said let’s dig into the Conference slate.
The Blazers open at North Texas. Road games are tough, but this is a big game and a win could send a big statement early to Conference USA. I don’t know much about the Mean Green, but they finished the 2016 campaign 5-8. UAB pulls out a close road victory. After 4 weeks UAB is 3-1 (1-0).
The next two weeks are where the schedule is the toughest for UAB. La Tech and Middle Tennessee are usually always at the top of Conference USA. La Tech is coming off a 9-5 season with a one point loss to Arkansas, and Middle is coming off an 8-5 season where they beat Missouri on the road. Both teams are known for their offense and can light up the scoreboard. Out of the two, UAB probably has a better chance of beating Middle Tennessee. I will be surprised to see somehow the La Tech fans complain about something though. UAB has a little setback with two straight losses, falling to 3-3 (1-3).
Good thing for the Blazers is after these two weeks they play Charlotte who should not be that good. I never like to call games a must-win, but after two straight losses this would kind of feel like that game. A road game, but I think UAB will overpower the 49ers on offense and get the win moving to 4-3 (2-3).
The following week UAB travels again to Brett Favre country to play Southern Miss. If anyone remembers the 2014 season, then they remember the last game of that year. UAB was 5-6 and needed one more win, and in the last game of the season they did just that with a beatdown of the Golden Eagles. Southern Miss lost one of it’s best quarterbacks in school history and will be looking to replace a veteran signal caller. The black and yellow may have a little revenge on its mind, but UAB goes into Hattiesburg and gets the win again. After eight games they are 5-3 (3-3).
UAB returns home to play Rice, Rice baby and could possibly become bowl eligible with a win. The Owls finished last season 3-9 and last in the West division. This is another game that UAB needs to win. Returning home, the Blazers get that sixth win in front of its home crowd this time. With three weeks left in the season they are 6-3 (4-3).
UAB then hits the road to play UTSA. The RoadRunners finished second in the Western Division at 6-7 (5-3). The RoadRunners return multiple starters and just gave their head coach a raise. The home crowd in the dome is the difference in this one as the Blazers fall to 6-4 (4-4).
The following week the Blazers travel to the Swamp to play SEC powerhouse Florida Gators. Coming off two straight trips to the SEC Championship, Florida will play it’s final game before they host instate rival Florida State. UAB will be outmatched in this one, but crazier things can happen. That check Florida hands over will help tremendously, but UAB will slip to 6-5 (4-4).
UAB returns home for the final game of the season against UTEP. The Miners finished the 2016 season 4-8. In front of it’s home crowd for the final time in #theReturn, the Blazers already having secured a bowl berth, will win it’s seventh game in a rout. UAB ends the season 7-5 (5-4) and earns a trip to the Bahamas Bowl.
Well those are my season predictions. UAB is set up nice with a pretty favorable schedule. The two weeks in October are tough, but not gonna end the season. I have been thinking too, if UAB ends the season 5-7 would the NCAA allow them to go to a bowl game since they were not able to in 2014 at 6-6? I know some teams in the past season at 5-7 have gone to bowl games, but would the NCAA make an exception to this team that maybe doesn’t have the best strength of schedule? I think UAB won’t have that problem and get’s bowl eligible on their own. This season is going to be historic.