We now move into week six of the college football season, so we’ll take a look at the upcoming matchup between UAB and La Tech this weekend.
The Blazers started the season 2-2 before a much needed bye week after losing a heart-breaking game on the road against North Texas. The good news is that the Mean Green look for real after pounding Southern Miss 43-28 in Hattiesburg this past weekend. That makes me feel a little better about that loss, and about UAB’s impending trip to play the Golden Eagles.
As for La Tech, they come into this weekend’s matchup with a 3-2 record after beating South Alabama 34-16 on Saturday. Their only two losses came against SEC schools, and they only lost to South Carolina by one point.
This is a very good Bulldog team, that will most definitely be competing for the Conference USA championship.
If UAB wants to assert themselves back into the picture, a win this weekend would certainly do the trick.
Let’s get into the matchups.
La Tech Offense vs. UAB Defense
The La Tech offense currently ranks sixth in Conference USA averaging 29.2 points per game. They lead the conference in field goals with 11, as they have one of the best field goal kickers in the country in Jonathan Barnes. They’re fourth in the conference in total yards per game with an average of 416 — 147.4 rushing and 268.6 passing.
Sophomore quarterback J’Mar Smith will lead the offense. He’s passed for 1,320 yards and 7 touchdowns this year with a completion percentage of 57.4. He’s thrown just three interceptions all year.
Smith can also run the ball a little as he’s rushed for 122 net yards (193 total) on 40 carries, but he’s yet to have a rushing touchdown.
The top running back for the Bulldogs is Jarred Craft. He’s piled up 345 yards on 76 attempts with 2 touchdowns. Behind him is Boston Scott who is averaging 6.2 yards per carry this year on 44 attempts.
La Tech has four receivers with 10 or more catches already this season. The top wideout on the team is Teddy Veal as he has 30 catches for 331 yards and 2 touchdowns. Next up is Rhashid Bonnette with 12 catches for 297 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Veal seems to be more of the possession guy, while Bonnette is a deep threat.
Marlon Watts and running back Boston Scott are the other two players with 10-plus catches.
They have three juniors, a sophomore and a senior on the offensive line. They’ve allowed 10 sacks on the year in five games, which isn’t great. However, five of those came against SEC defenses.
I actually think this a pretty good matchup for UAB’s defense. The secondary has actually looked better lately, and it’s the run defense that has taken a step back. But after a week of rest, I expect Stacy Keely to be fully healthy to help our pass rush.
The big key for the UAB defense in this game will obviously be getting off the field on third down, but also holding them to field goals.
La Tech has reached the red zone 21 times this year, but they’ve only scored nine touchdowns on those trips. UAB’s red zone defense will need to hold their ground and force La Tech to settle for field goals, giving our offense a chance to keep up.
UAB Offense vs. La Tech Defense
The UAB offense will be the key in this game. I’m interested to see how they improved during the bye week and what they’ve worked on. We had no idea coming into the season what kind of offense this would be, but I think after four games the coaching staff has a better feel for how this offense will work and what its strength and weaknesses are.
They’re third in the conference averaging 35.5 points per game this year, and sixth in total yards at 399.3 per game.
The La Tech defense has given up 27.2 points per game this year, which is seventh best in the conference. And they’ve given up 397.2 yards per game, which is also seventh best in the conference. They’re giving up 168.4 rushing yards per game, and 228.8 through the air.
I would think that plays into UAB’s strength if they can get back to running the football. North Texas loaded the box to stop the run against the Blazers and were successful, but A.J. Erdely was able to find some success through the air.
The coaching staff needs to let A.J. get into a rhythm throwing early to open up the running game — much like they did early in the game against Coastal Carolina.
If Erdely can have some success early in the passing game, that should open up the run and allow us to stay in the game against La Tech.
Linebacker Brandon Durman is the top dog for La Tech with 30 tackles and 3 tackles for a loss this season. UAB will need to make sure he gets blocked on Saturday.
Defensive end Jaylon Ferguson leads the team with 3 sacks on the year. At 6-foot-5, 269 pounds he will be hard to handle for our offensive line, which has allowed 12 sacks in four games.
Outside of the Mississippi State game, the La Tech defense has been pretty consistent giving up between 16-24 points.
I think UAB will have to break 30 again to win this one.
Game Preview and Prediction
This is a much more winnable game for UAB than I thought when the season began. It will still be a tough game for the Blazers, but I would not be surprised if they get the upset as they come in as a 12 point underdog.
La Tech does not feature an offense that is going to run up-and-down the field on you, which works well for our defense. They are about 30-30 on time-of-possession for they year, so as long as our offense doesn’t go stagnant the defense should be able to stay well rested.
I think our defense will need to keep them under 28 points in order to win this game.
The key for me in this game is the UAB offense. Will they be able to throw the ball downfield against that La Tech defense to open up the box so we can run the football?
Teams started to adjust to our all-out run attack before the bye, so it’s time for our coaching staff to adjust back. Erdely has proven to me that he’s capable of winning a football game with his arm, and that’s what he’ll have to do this weekend.
I really want to lean UAB in this game, but I’m not sure I’m ready to make that jump yet until I see what kind of adjustments the coaching staff made in the bye week.
Prediction: La Tech – 31 UAB – 20