After gaining bowl eligibility at home against Rice with a blowout win, the Blazers will hit the road to face a solid UTSA team.
The Roadrunners are 5-3 and looking to gain bowl eligibility themselves after losing on the road this past weekend to FIU 14-7. UTSA has also lost at home to Southern Miss this year, as well as on the road against North Texas.
While UAB is pretty much out of the C-USA West race unless North Texas falls apart against the two worst teams in the division, this is still a huge game for the Blazers. A win would pretty much guarantee them a second place finish in the West, and set them up for an 8-win season with UTEP at home to end the year.
That could set UAB up to reach a high level bowl game, and maybe even take the spot of a power five school in a bowl game.
Coming into the season I had this game as a loss for UAB, but after the way things have played out this season it’s a pretty even game. However, the Roadrunners start out as a seven point favorite.
Let’s get into the matchups and see how UAB can win this game:
UTSA Offense vs. UAB Defense
UTSA is fifth in the conference in scoring averaging 28.1 points per game. However, they’re averaging just 19 points a game over their last three games, and two of those games were wins.
They’re third in the conference averaging 425.8 total yards per game with 211.9 of those coming on the ground.
Jalen Rhodes is the team’s top running back with 572 net yards on 110 carries with 5 touchdowns, but they really spread it around with three guys having over 400 yards rushing.
Quarterback Dalton Sturm is third on the team with 464 net yards rushing, but would be second with 557 gross yards.
Tyrell Clay is the third man in the mix with 494 net yards rushing and 2 touchdowns.
Sturm is also a very good passer completing 65 percent of his passes on 206 attempts with 1,668 yards and 14 touchdowns to just 2 interceptions which is very similar to A.J’s performance this season.
The RoadRunners also have a number of reliable targets at wide receiver with five guys that have 14 or more catches, and four guys with 261 or more yards.
Josh Stewart is the top target with 28 catches for 387 yards and 3 touchdowns, but really they are all very good and reliable pass catchers.
The offensive line has allowed 19 sacks on the season, which will happen with a mobile quarterback. Hopefully our defensive ends can keep the quarterback in the pocket and bottle him up.
They’ve also fumbled the ball 11 times this year and lost eight of them.
As for the UAB defense, they’re sixth in the conference in stopping the run giving up 171.4 yards per game on the ground.
We all know how effective the Charlotte quarterback was at running against this UAB defense, hopefully we’ll be ready for it this time.
What makes Sturm so much more difficult to defend though is that he can hurt you with his arm too. The UAB defense will have one of it’s toughest tasks of the season trying to stop Sturm.
FIU was able to hold them to just 156 net yards rushing. Maybe UAB can use that film to do the same thing, because if we hold them under 200 yards rushing I like our chances.
UAB Offense vs. UTSA Defense
The Blazers are third in the conference averaging 32.9 points per game, and fifth in total yards per game averaging just under 400.
Spencer Brown continues to do amazing things at running back as a freshman. He leads the team with 1,049 yards rushing and is now tied with A.J. Erdely with 10 rushing touchdowns.
Brown is second in the conference in total rushing yards, and second in rushing yards per game at 116.6.
However, James Noble III proved this past Saturday that he is a very reliable running back as well. I think he plays a bigger role in the game on Saturday and gets more touches.
Speaking of receivers, Andre Wilson finally looked healthy on Saturday as he had a big day with two touchdown grabs. He leads the Blazers with 41 catches for 564 yards and 6 touchdowns.
Running back Donnie Lee is also becoming a reliable receiver out of the backfield with 10 catches for 142 yards on the season now, giving quarterback A.J. Erdely even more options.
Erdely is second on the team with 264 yards rushing despite having 148 negative yards. His ability to know when to pull the ball and run will be key in this game.
The UTSA defense is first in the conference in scoring defense (17 points per game) and total defense (297.3 total yards per game).
They’re giving up just 119.5 rushing yards per game, while UAB is third in the conference averaging 209.9 rushing yards per game.
This will certainly be an uphill battle for our offense on Saturday.
A couple of players to watch on the UTSA defense are linebackers La’Kel Bass and Marcus Davenport. They are one-and-two in tackles on the team, and Davenport leads the team with 12 tackles for a loss and 6.5 sacks.
Nate Gaines is a ball-hawking safety with 3 interceptions, while Devron Davis is their best cover corner with 5 pass break-ups and 6 passes defended.
Defensive lineman Kevin Strong has 6 tackles for a loss and two sacks on the season.
Linebacker Josiah Tauaefa, who was a 1st Team C-USA player last year, has missed the past two games with an injury and is out again this week.
I was glad to see our offense clicking on all cylinders against Rice. Hopefully they can carry that momentum on the road against the best defense in the conference this weekend.
Game Preview and Prediction
As I said, I picked UAB to lose this game at the beginning of the season, and after looking at the matchups I still feel like this will be a huge challenge for the Blazers on the road.
UTSA has a very good defense, which seems to be getting even better as they haven’t given up more than 14 points in any of their last three games. The Blazers will need to score a lot more than that to win this game.
I think our defense will have to keep their offense under 20 points for us to have a shot to win this one. Our defense has also been very good the past couple of weeks giving up 20.5 points per game over their last four games.
The key will obviously be stopping their quarterback from exploiting our defense with his legs. Luckily we have tape on how not to defend a running quarterback in the Charlotte film. Hopefully that will help the defense be better prepared for Sturm.
Our defense will also need to come up with a few turnovers to set our offense up for easy points. And our offense will need to follow that up with a clean game of their own.
I know UTSA has three conference losses, but the Blazers will need to have one of their best performances of the year to win this game.
Prediction: UTSA 27 UAB 17