The UAB Blazers capped off a spectacular 2017 season with an 8-4 record after restarting its football program that was disbanded in 2014. Coach Bill Clark has done a sensational job of revitalizing the Southside and is developing a winning machine in B'ham, the medical capital of the South.
The Blazers have had the pleasure of traveling to the Bahamas and competing in the Bahamas Bowl. Here's a look at the Blazers game along with the Wyoming-Central Michigan matchup in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
UAB (8-4, 6-2 C-USA) vs. Ohio (8-4. 5-3 Mid American, MAC)
Thomas Robinson Stadium, Nassau (15,023)
11 AM CT
Steve Levy, Dez Howard, Laura Rutledge
Laundry: American Athletic, Vogue CEO, Charles Lamertina
Ohio by 6 1/2
The Blazers have some solid victories this season in games where they were the underdog. They lost to Florida in the Swamp, 36-7, in a game they weren't that competitive in, and lost to Ball State the second game of the season, 51-31. They also lost at Charlotte, 25-24 in overtime, and North Texas, 46-43. North Texas just lost to a very good Troy team, 50-30, in the R+L Carriers Bowl last Saturday in N'Awlins. But 3 of those losses were in the first 7 games. The Blazers won 4 of their last 5 falling only to the Gators. They'e are solid and positioned well for the future in the Magic City.
Junior quarterback A. J. Erdely had a super year completing 181 of 293 passes, 62%, for 2,077 yards, 16 TDs against only 4 interceptions. He also ran for 13 TDs. Freshman tailback Spencer Brown was just as good, rushing for 1,292 yards and 10 TDs. Wide receiver Andre Wilson caught 48 passes for 619 yards and 6 TDs, and Collin Lisa, a really fine possession, Wes Welker, Danny Amendola-type receiver, caught 29 passes for 384 yards and a TD. On defense, middle linebacker Tevin Crews led the team with 95 tackles. He tied for the lead in tackles for loss with linebacker Shaq Jones as both posted 12 TFLs. Free Safety Broderick Thomas added 86 tackles. Junior cornerback D.A. Williams led the team in ints with 5, one of which was a house call.
This is a solid football team and amped up for the second bowl game in program history. The first one was an L in the Hawaii Bowl to Hawaii, 59-40. The Blazers joined the FBS in 1996, when it was called NCAA Division 1.
Frank Solich does a solid job in Athens, Ohio. They always finish around 8-4 or 7-5. They're competition is not as fierce, but they play sound football. They beat Big 12 competitor Kansas, 42-30, at home, and they defeated MAC champion Toledo, 38-10. Toledo very good and playing App State Saturday in the Dollar General Bowl in Mobile. So the Bobcats have some solid victories on their resume. They lost to Purdue on the road, 44-21, and lost to Buffalo at the end of the season, 31-24, at Buffalo. But Buffalo was a pretty good team that won 6 games but was left out of the bowls because there were too many teams eligible, and Buffalo got the short end of the stick. The Bobcats play hard and don't make a lot of mistakes. They're not majorly explosive, but will test the Blazers and are the favorite in Nassau.
Quarterback Nathan Rourke completed 149 of 275 passes, 54%, for 2,031 yards, 15 TDs and 7 interceptions. Rourke, who was pretty stellar in the MAC, rushed for 877 yards and 21 TDs. The Bobcats leading rusher is A.J. Ouellette, who has 985 yards on the season and 7 TDs. But Ouellette is doubtful for today's game due to injury. ***Update, Ouellette is playing. Wide receiver Brendan Cope leads the team in receptions with 35 for 494 yards and 4 TDs. Papi White is their big play guys with 32 catches for 475 yards and2 TDs. He's their take it to the house guy. On defense, middle linebacker Quentin Poling has posted 101 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and 5 sacks. Outside linebacker Chad Moore leads the defense in ints with 3, and cornerback Bradd Ellis has 2, both of which he's taken to the house.
I really like the way the Blazers are playing. I'm highly bullish on Bill Clark and what he's doing on the Southside. Ohio is solid, but the Blazers are hot. C-USA has had a good showing during the bowl season going 4-4, and I like the Blazers to keep it going and win their first ever bowl game in school history and build on what could be a terrific future.
UAB 35, Ohio 24
Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Wyoming (7-5, 5-3 Mountain West) vs Central Michigan (8-4, 6-2 MAC)
Albertsons Stadium, Boise, Idaho, 36,387
3 PM CT
Roy Philpott, Tom Ramsey, Alex Coddry
Yello: C-USA, Steve LaMantia
Wyoming by 3
The big question over the last couple of weeks in preparation for the Idaho Potato Bowl was, could NFL first round prospect Josh Allen start at quarterback for the Cowboys. Allen is a go. Allen has the prototypical size for an NFL QB at 6'5", 222, and has a cannon for an arm. He didn't put up massive numbers this season completing 141-of-251 passes, 56%, for 1,658 yards, 13 TDs against 6 ints, but he has the next level talent. He missed the Cowboys last 2 games of the season with a shoulder injury, and they lost both of those games and there were questions on whether he would play. But he wants to, and that's cool. The Cowboys were 7-3 with him under center, so he's critical to the Cowboys' success today against the Chippewas today. His leading receiver is C.J. Johnson, who has 27 receptions for 468 yards and 6 TDs. Allen has rushed for 5 TDs. The Cowboys' leading rusher is Trey Woods, who's scampered for 474 yards and 2 TDs. They have a weapon in their kickoff return game in Tyler Hall who's taken 2 kicks back to the house. On defense, strong safety Andrew Wingard leads the team in tackles with 111 and has 4 ints on the season. Defensive end Carl Granderson leads the team in tackles for loss with 15 and sacks with 7 1/2. He's a disruptive force.
For Central Michigan, quarterback Shane Morris has completed 226-of-407 passes, 56%, for 2,908 yards, 26 TDs, but 13 ints. The Chippewas leading rusher is Jonathan Ward, who has rushed for 988 yards and 9 TDs. Mark Chapman has caught 54 passes for 805 yards and 5 TDs and fellow wide out Corey Willis has 42 receptions for 625 yards and 9 house calls. The offense is explosive.
On defense, defensive end Joe Ostman has 17 1/2 tackles for loss and 11 sacks, tied for 16th in the country. Cornerback Sean Bunting has picked off 5 passes.
I like Josh Allen to play well. He wants to do well for his team, as he sounds like a team guy, and he wants to impress the NFL scouts who will be there to see him compete. I like Allen and Wyoming to win in Boise. But I see this as a competitive game.
Wyoming 31, Central Michigan 27