It’s been five years since the Battle of the Bones series was active, and new bowl projections are matching the two teams at the Birmingham Bowl on December 23.
The moment I saw multiple media outlets pair these two teams in Birmingham I knew we were going to have polarizing opinions of the match-up. It wasn’t the opponent as much as it was UAB reaching a bowl for the first time since 2004 only to be playing in their home stadium, which Birmingham natives don’t think fondly of to say the least.
Over at UnderdogDynasty.com our friend Cyrus Smith, who covers the FAU beat, wrote an article about the Owls embracing the Boca Raton Bowl this season. He also mentioned when New Mexico and Hawaii are bowl eligible they always stay home to host their bowl. But as you’ll read in the article linked, their fans have mixed feelings about doing so.
In a small sample size poll we ran on Twitter of around 100 of our followers, 54 percent were for facing our old rival Memphis — specifically in Birmingham. However, once we directly asked followers to give their opinion of the match-up we found that many had strong opinions on both sides.
After reading through more than 30 responses, it seems most want to find a happy medium between rewarding the players with a fun travel experience, while also giving the loyal supporters who fought for the program an affordable and somewhat easily accessible trip.
Personally, I’m torn. I’d love nothing more than an opportunity to beat a hated rival (who will likely be ranked) in front of our fans to secure our first bowl win in program history. You have to admit, it would be a fitting closing chapter to this unprecedented story. I will say, Memphis is probably the only team I’d be up for facing in the Birmingham Bowl, however. I’d pass on any other lowly power 5 or AAC team.
I reached out to Jonah Jordan, the lead writer for Go Tigers 247, to get some perspective from behind enemy lines. I asked him to talk about the likelihood of Memphis ending up in Birmingham, as well as how he’d expect the Tiger fan base to support being reunited with UAB.
The Birmingham Bowl is one of seven bowls with American Athletic Conference tie-ins, although it’s probably one of the better ones. They have been projected to the Frisco Bowl and Boca Raton Bowl. If they don’t win out and miss out on the Peach Bowl, then I expect they’ll end up in Hawaii or Birmingham.One projection has Memphis and UAB meeting in Birmingham, which would be the 16th game of a series that hasn’t been played since 2012. UAB leads the series 10-5. This is a rivalry that is mostly associated with basketball because of the battles these two programs had in their Conference USA days. There are memories like UAB upsetting Memphis, and Pierre Henderson Niles slapping a student. I think a football match-up would be met with general positivity because of the rivalry. Although, Memphis fans still have their sites set on a Peach Bowl bid.Memphians would no doubt support the Tigers if they did in fact go to the Birmingham Bowl. But don’t forget, they were in Birmingham in 2015 and that didn’t go well. Outside of losing the game to Auburn by a wide margin, Memphis fans had problems with Legion Field. Getting there was a pain, and tickets were not in fact numbered. There were all kinds of problems. A lot of Memphis fans met the prospect of going back with much chagrin.
If we combine all the opinions and thoughts of this match-up, I get the sense both Memphis and UAB fans would be OK with meeting in the Birmingham Bowl, but neither are really yearning for it. As I mentioned earlier, if we do in fact end up at home for our bowl game, Memphis would be the best possible opponent. Who knows, maybe it would open up the door to a future series so the Battle of the Bones can live on.