GAME PREVIEW: UAB at South Alabama

UAB at South Alabama
When: Thursday, Sept. 24th, 7:30 PM EDT
Where: Hancock Whitney Stadium, Mobile, AL
TV/Streaming: ESPN/WatchESPN (subscription req’d)

UAB will play its third Thursday game of the year after opening at home with Central Arkansas and then last week played at Miami (FL). The Blazers won their opener but lost last week at Miami.

South Alabama will play its second Thursday game. The Jaguars opened with an upset road win over UAB conference mate Southern Miss but fell last week at home in the opener in their new Hancock Whitney Stadium to Tulane last Saturday.

These two teams will meet for the in-state Alabama bragging rights in this non-conference battle of C-USA and the Sun Belt schools.

Here are some highlights from last year’s first contest between these two schools where UAB won easily, 35-3 in Birmingham.

UAB Blazers (1-1 overall, 0-0 C-USA)

UAB QB Tyler Johnston III suffered a non-throwing shoulder injury in the Miami loss last week and will not play against South Alabama. Redshirt freshman Bryson Lucero will now make his first start of his college career in this game. Lucero has, however, worked into the mix this season so he is not completely inexperienced.

UAB QB Bryson Lucero

Myron Mitchell likely Lucero’s top target in this game. In addition to leading the team with 12 receptions and 164 yards so far this season, second leading receiver Austin Watkins, Jr. suffered an apparent injury against Miami that could limit him against the Jaguars. Watkins has 10 catches, 104 yards, and a touchdown so far this year. TE Gerrit Prince caught both of his team-leading two touchdowns in the win over Central Arkansas and could also play a key in the passing game.

But the Blazers may rely more on the running game with the inexperienced signal caller. RB Spencer Brown looks to be back in full health and is looking like the back we saw in 2018. He leads the team with 201 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 40 carries. And the Blazers also have a change of place RB in Jermaine Brown Jr., who has gained 88 yards with a touchdown this year as the more speed kind of back.

UAB has allowed a surprising 33.0 points per game (up from 21.6), though that’s a bit misleading after playing a Power Five team in Miami last week. Still, UAB has allowed 5.40 yards per play this season (6.27 against FBS competition) — a major uptick compared to the 4.71 it surrendered in 2019. The Blazers will also need to improve in this area this week against a very formidable offense in USA’s.

South Alabama Jaguars (1-1 overall, 0-0 SBC)

South Alabama will also turn to a new starter under center. Chance Lovertich would get the start after completing 18 of 29 pass attempts for 247 yards and two touchdowns against Tulane in relief of now former starter Desmond Trotter. Lovertich also threw a touchdown pass against Southern Miss in a relief roll in that win.

USA QB Chance Lovertich

But like the first two games, both quarterbacks are likely to play, and both will have dynamic receivers to work with. Jalen Tolbert stared in the Southern Miss game as he caught six passes for 169 yards and two scores in that win and followed with 99 yards on six grabs against Tulane last week. But Kawaan Baker was the star against the Green Wave, posting seven catches for 129 yards and a touchdown.

RB Carlos Davis has been the offensive change-up on the ground as he has 167 rushing yards and a touchdown so far this year. He also has shown an ability to catch the ball out of the backfield with with four receptions for 46 yards in the two games.

Though South Alabama’s defense has shown improvement on the scoreboard this year so far in giving up 24.0 points per game compared to 30.7 a year ago, opponents have gained 5.78 yards per play in 2020 — nearly identical to the 5.77 the Jaguars surrendered on average through last year’s 2-10 season. These numbers will need to improve so the offense does not have to win shootout type games.

Fearless Prediction:

The Blazer defense that was a critical part of the team’s winning the C-USA West Divsion crown last year has been done as mentioned but after three games, this group led by DE Jordan Smith  will step up in this one.

There will be some points but UAB will be better than USA’s defense in this one and will allow for the UAB offense to get just enough to get the road win. UAB 27 South Alabama 17

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