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UAB Blazers vs FAU Owls 2014 Preview: What To Watch For

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Florida Atlantic will host UAB for Homecoming in South Florida. The Owls head home after a close defeat at Marshall, while the Blazers come to Boca following a blowout against Arkansas. Both teams are still in the hunt for bowl eligibility and can make strides in their separate quests with a victory on Saturday night.

Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

Who: UAB Blazers (4-4, 2-2 C-USA)  vs. FAU Owls (3-5, 2-2 C-USA)

When: Saturday, November 1st, 7:00 PM EST

Where: FAU Stadium

TV: American Sports Network

F/+: UAB - 86 (O: 84/D: 91/ST: 13), FAU - 98 (82/101/33)

Series: FAU leads the series, 4-1, and won last season's contest, 37-23.

Preview

The Owls continue their steady climb towards offensive stability - 68th in rushing yards - against a Blazer team that is currently 73rd in the country in total defense. Quarterback Jaquez Johnson is coming off another solid performance against current divisional leader Marshall with 179 passing yards and one touchdown. Wide receiver Lucky Whitehead will also look to capitalize off last week's performance that saw the senior catch 11 passes for 102 yards and move to 7th in the nation in all-purpose yards. FAU is still holding out hope for bowl eligibility and will attempt to ride their running back by committee, headlined by freshman Greg Howell, to a homecoming victory.

UAB quarterback Cody Clements was held out of last week's game against Arkansas with a shoulder injury and we are still unsure if he will be back this week. If he is unable to go, redshirt freshman Jeremiah Briscoe will lead the Blazer offense and is coming off a one touchdown, 62 yard losing performance last week. Jamarcus Nelson's 100-yard touchdown return was the brightest highlight in an otherwise lackluster showing by UAB. The Blazers will look to get back on track towards their own bowl eligibility aspirations behind their running back tandem of Jordan Howard and D.J. Vinson.

FAU will win if ... the Owls can stop the Blazers on offense.

It's plain and simple. FAU is scoring 45 points per game in Boca Raton. Now, it's just up to their defense to match the production. Andrae Kirk had a forgettable game against Marshall, but the senior linebacker should be back to form on Saturday. One player that did fairly well last week was cornerback D'Joun Smith. While he tore it up on special teams, Smith was called for two iffy pass interference calls and will need to be flawless against UAB's Jamarcus Nelson. I believe that if Jaquez Johnson is up to his usual tricks, bulldozing runs up the gut and masterful passes underneath to Lucky Whitehead, the Owls will be able to outscore the Blazers and regain their positive conference record.

UAB will win if ... the Blazers take advantage of FAU's mistakes.

The Owls are still trying to figure out their defensive strengths and in the process, have been susceptible to the occasional big play. Poor coverage on special teams needs to lead to a big return from Nelson. Confusion on the defensive front needs to become a first down from Jordan Howard. Most importantly, if the Owls put the ball on the ground, the Blazers have to recover and turn that opportunity into points. It has been tough to keep up with the Owls at home, but a few poor FAU bounces can turn into scores with ease.

Prediction

UAB brings a much improved squad to Boca Raton since the last time these two teams met. In fact, I really can't remember if there was ever a good Blazer team that played against the Owls. With that said, this matchup is instantly intriguing, if not for the bowl implications. Both teams are extremely close to bowl eligibility and this win could shoot the victor towards their goal sooner, rather than later.

The Blazers will attempt to run and run and run all over the Owls, but I expect FAU to have learned their lesson from last week's Marshall game. A late turnover, combined with Blazer quarterback instability and another stellar game from Jaquez Johnson, lead the Owls to a homecoming victory.

FAU 35, UAB 24