The time has finally come as UAB football gets ready to kick-off the 2017 season against Alabama A&M on Saturday, September 2 at 2:30 p.m. CT at Legion Field.
This will be the first time we’ve seen UAB football play a game in over 1,000 days. Nobody really knows what to expect from this team, so we are all very anxious to see what they look like.
These two teams met back in 2014, which ended up being the last season for UAB football. The Blazers dominated in that game winning 41-14. Running back D.J. Vinson rushed for 5 touchdowns in that game.
The Bulldogs were just 4-7 last year with a 55-0 loss to Conference USA opponent Middle Tennessee. They lost by that exact same score to Auburn later in the year. Those were their only two games against Division 1 opponents. They were 4-5 in SWAC games.
Alabama A&M Offense vs. UAB Defense
The Bulldogs will be breaking in a new quarterback this year in freshman Ageel Glass. He was listed as a 2-star, pro-style quarterback out of Lutheran North HS in St. Louis, Mo.
The A&M offense averaged 23.8 points per game last year and 367.5 yards per game.
Most of those numbers were accumulated by former quarterback De’Angelo Ballard. He passed for almost 2,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, while also rushing for 711 net yards and seven more touchdowns.
Ballard was essentially responsible for 17 of the team’s 29 touchdowns last year, so that will be a huge loss for the Bulldogs.
Their leading running back from last year, sophomore Jordan Bentley, will be back after running for 851 yards and nine touchdowns.
However, they also lose their top wideout from 2016 in Tevin McKenzie who had 539 yards receiving and 1 touchdown, as well as their number two wideout in Jonathan Dorsey. He had 449 yards receiving and led the team with four touchdown receptions.
You have to figure this Alabama A&M team will have to lean on the running game early until Glass gets comfortable.
I think that plays right into the teeth of the UAB defense. The front seven for the Blazers is perhaps the strongest part of this team.
Teko Powell, Anthony Rush, Quindarius Thagard and Garrett Marino form a very solid middle of the defensive line. And then you have a couple of returnees from the 2014 team in Shaq Jones and Tevin Crews at linebacker that will bottle up the run game of Alabama A&M.
I think the UAB defense is going to dominate on Saturday.
UAB Offense vs. Alabama A&M Defense
The UAB offense is by far the biggest question mark heading into the 2017 season. There is nearly as much experience on this side of the football.
However, starting quarterback A.J. Erdely does have some Division 1 experience and has looked very solid in scrimmages.
He also appears to have a ton of options at the skill positions with James Noble and Donnie Lee at running back and Colin Lisa and Brock McCoin at wide receiver.
The biggest key for me on offense is how quickly this offensive line comes together. You have to be able to win up front, and I’m not sure how much actual game time it will take for this line to gel. Hopefully they can work out all the kinks in week one, but I do expect some hiccups against Alabama A&M.
The Aggies allowed 38.7 points per game last year and 460.7 yards per game, including 238.8 yards on the ground per game.
They get their leading tackler back in senior linebacker Kenneth Davis who had 98 tackles in 2016 with 10.5 tackles for a loss and 2 sacks.
The Bulldogs also get back their best defensive lineman in junior Yurik Bethune. He had 49 tackles, 4 tackles for a loss and 2 sacks last year.
Their biggest loss comes in the secondary where they lose Devonte Simon who had 3 interceptions and 14 pass break-ups last year. They do get Tere Calloway back in the secondary. The senior was second on the team with 74 tackles to go along with 2 interceptions and 4 pass break-ups.
Roderick Randolph also returns to the secondary. He was second on the team with 7 pass break-ups last year and 41 tackles.
So you would expect this Alabama A&M defense to be much improved this year.
With an inexperienced UAB offense, expect some struggles early on. But the size and depth for the Blazers should be enough to overcome the Bulldog defense as the game goes on.
Game Preview and Prediction
I really don’t see the UAB defense giving up much in this game. Both offenses will probably be a little gun-shy early with new starting quarterbacks.
Expect to see a lot of runs early for both teams as they try to get the butterflies out of their system.
The front seven for Alabama A&M should be much improved this year, so it will be up to the UAB offensive line to generate a strong push up front.
I don’t think many points will be scored in the first quarter, but I think the running game for UAB opens up in the second quarter as they wear down the Alabama A&M defense.
And then I think UAB opens up the passing game after halftime and starts pulling away.
Again, I would be shocked (and concerned) if the UAB defense gives up much in this game. A shutout wouldn’t surprise me either.
Hopefully UAB has a big enough lead in the fourth quarter to allow everyone to get some reps.
Prediction: UAB – 38 Alabama A&M – 10