National pundits from around the country predict and preview the game. We round up their takes below.
*Odds/lines subject to change. T&Cs apply. See draftkings.com/sportsbook for details.
- The College Football staff at The Athletic made their picks for the game. All 12 writers picked BYU.
Was BYU snubbed of a New Year’s Six game? Possibly. The Cougars were the highest-ranked team in the final CFP poll left out of an NY6 game, despite going 10-2 with wins over eventual conference champions Utah and Utah State and a relatively competitive loss to Baylor. BYU now has back-to-back seasons of at least 10 wins for the first time under Kalani Sitake. For the second straight year, much of the reason behind that success came from the offensive side of the ball. The Cougars average over 457 yards and 33.5 points per game while converting nearly 47 percent of third downs? Translation — this is not easy to get off the field. Tyler Allgeier led the ground game with 1,409 yards and 20 touchdowns, while Jaren Hall threw 20 touchdowns to five interceptions in five games.
Oddsmakers have the Cougars as touchdown favorites over UAB. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on ABC.
The Blazers closed the regular season 8-4, the fourth time in five seasons they’ve won at least eight games. But UAB has to be wondering what could’ve been after coming up short against UTSA after leading at halftime on the road in a game that decided the C-USA West. Bill Clark’s team still won three of four to close the regular season and can end the year on a high note if it can pull the upset here. To do so, the Blazers will lean heavily on a defense that allows the 15th-fewest yards per game and concedes 22.8 points per game. UAB’s offense isn’t a pushover, topping 30 points in seven games, but it could be without leading rusher DeWayne McBride (1,118 yards, 12 touchdowns).
- ESPN previewed each bowl game and gave a quick synopsis of BYU-UAB.
Player to watch: RB DeWayne McBride. The sophomore proved in 2021 that he has an incredibly bright future, averaging 6.7 yards per rush for 1,185 yards and 12 touchdowns. He’s going to have to be on his game in order to knock off BYU.
Storyline to watch: BYU has the 17th-ranked offense in SP+, while UAB has the 27th-ranked defense in SP+. That’s likely going to be the matchup to decide how this game goes, or be the most compelling matchup, if nothing else. -- Harry Lyles Jr.
Player to watch: Running back Tyler Allgeier. The second-team All-American back is tied for the most rushing touchdowns in the nation with 20 and at 5-11, 220-pounds can bulldoze defenders when needed. It’s also why he was able to play linebacker during the 2019 season. The sophomore totaled over 1,400 rushing yards this season and averaged over five yards per carry.
Storylines to watch: From being ranked as high as 10th, to dominating and winning all five games they played against Pac-12 opponents this season, it’s been a banner season for BYU. Kalani Sitake’s season earned him interest in the coaching carousel, including from Oregon, but in the end, BYU was able to keep him in Provo by agreeing on what they called an “unprecedented” deal through 2027. Now, with Big-12 membership just a year away, they’ll be looking to finish this season with 11 wins, giving the Cougars back-to-back 11-win seasons for the first time since 2006 and 2007.
- Pamela Maldonado of Yahoo Sports predicted the game would hit the over.
Another weather game to monitor. Forecasts call for 13 mph winds, gusts of 20 mph, and 65% chance of rain with a possible thunderstorm in Shreveport, Louisiana. The Cougars finished with a 10-2 season record and instead of landing a top-tier bowl game, BYU will have to play in Louisiana well before the holidays. You can’t quantify motivation so I won’t use that in any of my predictions.
What I do know is that UAB leading RB DeWane McBride looks highly unlikely to play. He was carted off the field in UAB’s 42-25 win over UTEP in the season home finale early in the second quarter. McBride led the team in carries and rushing yards, while accounting for 12 of the 26 total rushing scores. Next man up, Jermaine Brown Jr., filled in nicely with 88 rushing yards and three scores against the Miners. Depth, however, could be the issue as RB3 Lucious Stanley left for the transfer portal.
For BYU, WR2 Gunner Romney may miss the bowl after missing the regular-season finale. Romney is third in receptions, second in receiving yards, but accounts for just three of the 26 total receiving touchdowns.
I’ll be honest, I don’t feel confident with this one. Not having McBride puts a wrench in things. I see a UAB defense that shut down a North Texas rushing offense against a BYU team that struggled against a run-heavy Baylor offense. BYU is top 35 in red zone scores per game, while both are outside the top 50 for limiting opponent scores. BYU can rack up some points, while both have been vulnerable to allowing scores. BYU is similar to UTSA statistically, balanced offense with a pretty average defense. UAB is similar to Baylor statistically, a run-heavy offense with a good run defense. In both matchups, BYU against Baylor and UAB against UTSA, points were scored.
Prediction: OVER 54.5