Game location: Independence Stadium- Shreveport, Louisiana
Game time/channel: 3:30pm ET/ABC
Spread: -6.5 (BYU)
Head coach: Bill Clark
Clark has been the head coach for the Blazers since before they briefly halted the football program following the 2014 season. The Blazers returned for the 2017 season, with Clark still at the helm.
Clark is to be commended for his efforts and patience in helping build the UAB program quite literally from the ground-up again. Now, he is leading the Blazers to their fourth bowl game in their five years since returning.
2021 Season Thus Far
UAB is certainly battle tested, as they played College Football Playoff participant Georgia on the road in Week 2, losing to the No. 3 Bulldogs 56-7. They took a 7-3 record into playing then No. 15-ranked, undefeated UTSA. The Blazers even took a lead into halftime against the Roadrunners and led late in the fourth quarter, before losing to UTSA on a last-second touchdown.
They rebounded with a win over UTEP to finish the regular season 8-4, finishing in second place in the C-USA West division.
2021 Team Rankings
Scoring offense: 59th
Total offense: 78th
Passing yards: 91st
Rushing yards: 52nd
Scoring defense: 40th
Total defense: 16th
Pass yards allowed: 51st
Rush yards allowed: 11th
Other notable stat- 92nd in opponent red zone scoring percentage
While UAB has a solid defense, their stats decline when their opponents get inside the red zone. BYU needs to take advantage of every time they are near the end zone, turning chances into touchdowns.
Biggest Strength- Run defense
This will the ultimate test of strength-on-strength. BYU will look to establish the run early with bowling ball back Tyler Allgeier. Meanwhile, UAB is stout against the run, ranking 11th in the nation, ahead of the likes of Ohio State, Michigan and Utah. The Cougars will need to be just as stout up front in run blocking to win in the trenches. This is likely where the game will be decided.
Biggest Weakness- Penalties
UAB is not blatantly bad at any aspect on offense or defense. However, they have had more than their fair share of penalties. In fact, they are dead last in all of the FBS in penalty yards per game, at 92.4. This suggests that while they are solid on defense with a complimentary offense, they are, at times, undisciplined and make silly mistakes that extend their opponents’ drives while killing their own.
Best Player- DeWayne McBride, RB
What Tyler Allgeier is to BYU, a reliable, bruising bell-cow of a back, McBride is to UAB. He toted 177 carries for 1,185 yards and 12 touchdowns this season. His 6.7 yards per carry is fourth in the entire country.
How BYU Can Win
Make no mistake, this will not be a cakewalk for the Cougars. As mentioned, the battle will be won or lost in the run game for both teams. BYU will seek to give UAB a steady dose of Allgeier, hoping he will break through UAB’s brick wall of a run defense. At times, BYU has struggled to contain the ground game on defense, ranking 63rd in the FBS in rushing yards allowed per game, while UAB will rely heavily on running back DeWayne McBride. If the Cougars’ run blocking can penetrate the best defense in Conference USA, BYU should get their 11th win of the year. They better bring their A-game to vanquish an eight-win team that seems to be motivated.