UAB will leave chilly Birmingham this weekend for a C-USA matchup against FAU in much more climate friendly Boca Rotan. The weather won't be the only thing heating up the south Florida night though as the Blazers and Owls are running out of time to get bowl eligible. Both teams need six wins to qualify for the post season and FAU knows that still might not be enough. Last years FAU squad stayed at home with a 6-6 record.
The Blazers enter the contest at 4-4 overall and 2-2 in conference play. Bill Clark's team has let two winnable games slip by against FIU & MTSU. If this year's Blazers hope to return to their first bowl game since 2004 they have to find two wins against FAU, Louisiana Tech, Marshall, and Southern Miss. Considering Marshall is undefeated UAB realistically needs to go 2-1 against the other three to be considered for a bowl. This is a tough FAU squad but certainly beatable for the Blazers.
Coach Charlie Partridge's Owls have also let a few games slip away on their way to a 3-5 overall record and an identical 2-2 C-USA record with UAB. The Owls lost a road game at Wyoming in the worst possible way. As FAU was running out the clock, a costly turnover and subsequent defensive breakdown lead to disaster. A last second game winning field goal for the Cowboys. The Owls also lost the annual Shula Bowl against FIU in a match up many thought they would win. FAU has to go 3-1 against UAB, North Texas, ODU, & MTSU to get to 6-6 for the 2nd straight year.
Add all of this up and you have two football teams fighting for their post season lives Saturday. The house that Howard Schnellenberger built should be entertaining Saturday night. Below are the Blazer keys to victory.
1.) Quarterback Cody Clements health- The junior with a nearly 70% completion percentage is still listed as day to day after an injury two weeks ago at MTSU. Last week Jeremiah Briscoe started and the Blazer offense never got much going. Clement's health may determine how the Blazers fare the rest of the season and not just Saturday night. While the Blazers have plenty of play makers, the drop off at QB may be too much to over come.
2.) Defensive match up- FAU runs a fast pace multi-set offense. This Blazer team has played its best when forcing turnovers. Can Jake Ganus and company make enough plays against the fast Owl attack.
3.) Who puts the disappointments of last Saturday behind them the quickest? FAU came up short despite leading undefeated Marshall on the road at half time. The Owls really were the first test The Thundering Herd had to over come all season. UAB was blown out at Arkansas. The Blazers had been hoping to rekindle the effort they had at Mississippi State earlier in the year, but we're never really in the game. If either team is still struggling to get last week out of their system they will probably suffer another set back.
Prediction- Bill Clark has gotten a ton of positive momentum around the football program. Last week a new foundation was set up to help promote and expand UAB football. A win Saturday almost guarantees the Blazers get bowl eligible and keeps that momentum growing. Six wins most likely gets a post season invite this year. For me it all comes down to Cody Clements. If he is healthy I think the Blazers find a way to win. Without him or even with a less than 100% Clements I foresee the Owls pulling away in the 4th quarter for a two score win.