CSJ Conference USA Championship Game Preview — UAB at Middle Tennessee State, How To Watch and Fearless Predictions

UAB at Middle Tennessee State
When: Saturday, December 1, 12:30 PM CST
Where: Floyd Stadium, Murfreesboro, Tenn.
TV/Streaming: CBS Sports Network / CBS Sports App

UAB Blazers (9-3, 7-1 C-USA) 

Conference USA West Division Champions
Location: Birmingham, Ala.
Enrollment: 21,923
Sagarin Rating: 80 (18 in G5)

Season Recap: UAB clinched the West Division by two games over LA Tech, Southern Miss, and North Texas. UAB went 7-1 in C-USA play and are 9-3 overall. UAB is also making their first-ever appearance in the championship game.  This is first time the Blazers won more than eight games as an FBS program.

UAB has one of the best defenses in the nation – ranked 9th in scoring, 19th vs. the run, and 7th vs. the pass. It makes the fact that it coughed up 394 total yards (100-plus more yards than the average of 287.2) in last week’s 27-3 loss to Middle Tennessee surprising.

Despite not playing football in 2015 and 2016, the Blazers have been incredibly successful since their return and have compiled a record of 17-8 overall and a mark of 13-3 in C-USA action. The 17 total wins are a school record over a two-year span, and the 13 league wins are the most of any team in C-USA since 2017.

Best Win: at Louisiana Tech (28-7)

Worst Loss: at Texas A&M (41-20)

Other key outcomes: vs. North Texas (29-21 W), vs. Tulane (31-24 W)

Key Player: DE Jamell Garcia-Willams has led a UAB defense that has tallied 41 quarterback sacks which is a new program record.  He leads the way with 8.5, but the Blazers have shared the wealth as 16 different players have at least one sack.  He will be key to stopping MTSU QB  Brent Stockstill, who is one of the most accomplished quarterbacks in the history of Conference USA.

Courtesy of UAB Athletics

Fantasy Bonus Baby: RB Spencer Brown is seven yards away from back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons to begin his career. Brown has been specifically successful in finding the end zone with a school record 15 rushing touchdowns this year, ranking him seventh nationally in that category.

Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders (8-4, 7-1 C-USA) 

Conference USA East Division Champions
Location: Murfreesboro, Tenn.
Enrollment: 19,523
Sagarin Rating: 83 (21 in G5)

Season Recap: Middle Tennessee has won two league crowns, sharing Sun Belt titles in 2001 and 2006. It has never been to the C-USA championship game, however. Middle Tennessee clinched the East Division of with a 7-1 record in conference play, one game ahead of FIU and Marshall.

One area where Middle Tennessee excelled this season is in the turnover category on both sides of the ball. The Blue Raiders are among the top 40 nationally in both turnovers gained (20, tied for 37th) and turnovers lost (15, tied for 36th), showing a propensity to generate big plays defensively while minimizing those mistakes on the offensive end.

Middle Tennessee is a middle-of-the-road team on paper (62nd in scoring offense and 51st in scoring defense) but is coming off last week against the same UAB where they performed their best in the 27-3 victory.

Best Win: vs. UAB (27-3)

Worst Loss: at Georgia (48-7)

Other key outcomes: at Kentucky (34-23 L)

Key Player: LB DQ Thomas  paced a Blue Raider defense that was stellar in the win against the Blazers last week.  He led Middle Tennessee with seven tackles, five solo, collected two of a team-high seven sacks, and had three tackles for loss, one quarterback hurry and one forced fumble.  He and the defense will need to keep the strong UAB offense down again for MTSU to win this one.

Courtesy of Nashville Star

Fantasy Bonus Baby: QB Brent Stockstill is second in all of the FBS in completion percentage.  He led the MTSU offense to 394 total yards and closed the game on a 27-0 run.  He has led the Blue Raiders to  a five-game win streak against C-USA teams to end the season.  Look for him to have a big game in his final home game as a senior for his father, who is the Head Coach Rick Stockstill.  

Fearless Prediction: Both of these teams have really cool stories. You have UAB who rose from the ashes after taking two seasons off to win nine games this year and you have Middle Tennessee who has a father/son duo at coach and quarterback trying to cap their last ride together as champions.  The question for UAB is if last week was an anomaly or if MTSU has really figured out how to stop them.  I think it will be a much tighter game than the one played last week but with the home field again, Middle Tennessee wins the Conference USA.  Middle Tennessee State 31, UAB 27

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