UAB Blazers (4-3, 2-2) at Southern Miss Golden Eagles (5-2, 3-1)
Location: MM Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, MS
Time: Saturday October 28th, 6:00 PM CT
TV: CUSA.tv, unfortunately
Line: Southern Miss -13, O/U 52
History: Southern Miss leads 10-5, UAB won last meeting and four of last five
For me personally, this is the part of the year where we finally arrive at the most interesting game on UAB’s schedule, and that was before last week’s unexpected come-from-ahead road loss against Charlotte.
This is the real rivalry for both UAB and Southern Miss (no matter what you were led to believe last week) and that should show on the football field.
This rivalry dates back to 2000, and the Eagles won the first nine matchups, though the first seven were all by one score and several were by less than a touchdown. When UAB started winning was when things got interesting.
- In 2010, UAB played the role of spoiler in winning 50-49 in 2OT. It was the Blazers’ only road win in a four-win season
- In 2011, the Blazers were one of only two teams to beat Southern Miss, and possibly prevented the CUSA title game against Houston from being a BCS play-in
- In 2013 , UAB lost to a Southern Miss team that hadn’t won in two years, in front of a crowd of less than 7,000 fans; it was likely one of the beginning seeds of the shutdown of the program
- In 2014 a win in the Southern Miss game got the Blazers eligible… for the bowl game they didn’t get invited to
As if all of that wasn’t enough, you now have a Southern Miss team fresh off a comeback overtime win to stay in the conference title race, facing a UAB team that has rivalry blood flowing and a need to demonstrate that Charlotte was fluke. Will they though?
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
The Eagles have been just as lucky as they have been good. Overall, their offense has not really struggled all season, but it also has only played one defense that grades out better than the Blazers, and that was a UTSA defense that padded its pockets against the likes of Southern, Texas State and Rice and got exposed badly by Southern Miss. The defense has the same issue, as their only strong performance against a good offense was their win against Louisiana-Monroe where their defense could afford to be bad because the opposing defense was even worse.
It’s unknown yet whether Kwadra Griggs is recovered enough from his hand injury to return as the starting quarterback, which is no surprise considering we didn’t even know about the injury right away. We also don’t know whether they want Griggs or Howard under center. Howard is a physically bigger and better athlete, but he’s also younger and much more turnover prone – the much higher risk/higher reward option in every sense.
Either way there will still be the trio of Ito Smith, Allenzae Staggers and Korey Robertson available as weapons as long as the offensive line does its job.
The old adage is that defense travels, and UAB’s definitely has not. The primary reason that the Blazers are 4-0 at home and 0-3 on the road is the ability of the defense to put together four consecutive quarters of quality football. The average percentile performance of the defense at home is 78, and on the road it’s 26 – they graded out as slightly below average last week against Charlotte and it was actually their best road defensive performance to date.
Read that again. A game where the Blazers blew a 17-point lead in the last 18 minutes was their best road defensive performance to date. Granted, the defense did the best they could, because what did Charlotte produce? One touchdown drive that started at the UAB 35 after a fumble on a punt return, one touchdown on a deep pass where the wide receiver pushed off and the ref missed it, and one field goal on another drive that started at the UAB 32 after Spencer Brown got stripped.
Of course, that all wasn’t helped by UAB’s offense, which struggled to hold a multiple-score lead again this season.
Offenses like UAB that have their success via tempo and skill position rotations also have a late-game disadvantage in that they often will attempt to downshift into ball-control to start to burn clock, but because that isn’t what produces their success, they have a hard time staying ahead of the chains and in charge of the clock in order to wind games down; it’s such a dramatic shift from the rhythm they typically execute in that it can be challenging without a lot of experience.
Last week was exceptionally odd, because after 57 carries and 335 yards against La Tech and MTSU, Spencer Brown saw only 16 carries for 71 yards, a third of which came on the first two carries of the game. A player who averaged almost six yards per carry over the previous eight quarters of football only saw 16 carries for the game, and only four carries in the last 18 minutes. If you’re trying to eat clock, he’s the one you should be feeding.
This one is strange; Southern Miss is there with their 5-2 record and statistically, they rate pretty highly, but they’ve had almost as many close calls as the Blazers have. I like UAB’s chances a bit better with Howard at QB only because he’s a near-lock to turn the ball over at some point, and the Blazers excel at that kind of field-flipping. That said, UAB needs to stick with what got them here and use their skill position depth to wear teams down.
I think the Blazers are a good bet to cover the spread, but I’m hesitant to pick them to win on the road when they haven’t done so yet, and when they might be a bit over-amped for what will be a huge rivalry game.
Oh, what the hell.
UAB Blazers 30, Southern Miss Golden Eagles 27