UAB closes the season against Southern Miss, who beat them a year ago in what was USM's only win. The Blazers will certainly want revenge, but they would rather already be bowl eligible before they head to Hattiesburg. To do that UAB will have to beat LA Tech or Marshall at home.
Clark believes the game this week against Tech is huge. "It is huge," said Clark. "We said last week was huge and this week is huge. It gives us a chance to be bowl eligible, which is s huge deal for this team."
UAB is a very solid team across the board. The Blazers are 37th in rushing offense, and 42nd in Total offense. On the other side, UAB is 66th in Total Defense. The Blazers rush for over 200 yards per game and that's how they want to beat teams; play tough defense and control the ball with the ground game.
Clark has two really good running backs to rely on in Jordan Howard and D.J. Vinson. Howard is already over 1,000 rushing yards on the season and Vinson adds 548. The two have combined for 17 rushing touchdowns.
If UAB has weaknesses, it is red zone offense and turnovers. Blazer quarterback Cody Clements has thrown 7 of the team's 11 interceptions this year and the team has a -.44 turnover margin that ranks 90th in the country. The Blazers also rank 94th in red zone offense, so when they do get down the field they haven't been very efficient.
Still, Clark is glad to have Clements on the field. "I think we are all banged up at this time of year," admitted Clark. "We have offensive linemen out there with high ankle injuries and he (Clements) fought through some things the other night. But, we are a different team when he is in there. That is no offense to Jeremiah (Briscoe), because he has done a great job. He brings a leadership quality to us. We are all banged up right now. Luckily, we have an open date coming up. Hopefully we can get through this one and get everybody closer to 100 percent."
Louisiana Tech will bring a defense ranked 29th in the country in total yards, giving up just under 345 yards per game. The Bulldogs build their success off of defensive pressure and turnovers. Tech is tied for 17th in the country at .89 in turnover margin.
Bulldogs Head Coach Skip Holtz knows his defense will be challenged by the Blazers rushing attack. "When you watch them on film," explained Holtz, "this will be one of the bigger challenges that we have had in conference. We break stats down in conference games. When you look at this team against conference opponents, they are averaging over 450 yards on offense. They are controlling the ball for 33 or 34 minutes a game. They are rushing for over 200 yards a game. They are 47 percent on third down. Their defense is only giving up 29 percent on third down. This football team is a very good football team."
The Bulldogs are 29th in rushing defense, giving up less than 130 yards per game on the ground. Still, the Tech defense gave up 3.4 yards per carry against UTSA, a game that the Bulldogs trailed in at the half. Western Kentucky rushed for 152 yards against Tech, despite losing in Ruston 59-10.
Bulldogs defensive end Houston Bates knows Jordan Howard will be a load for his defense to contend with. "He keeps his feet moving," said the fifth year senior. "Tackling a guy that keeps his feet moving through a hole is not an easy task, especially with him being 230 pounds or however big he is. It is going to be a tough job, but we are going to have all hats to the ball. Once we do that, I think that we can stop him."
This game could come down to turnovers. The Bulldogs have been behind in games against both UTSA and USM at halftime and it took turnovers and big plays to get them back on track. Against UTEP and WKU, the Bulldogs were able to get big wins by forcing turnovers.
UAB did not turn the ball over in their last two wins. If they can protect the ball and pound the Tech defense with their running backs, they have a good chance to win the game. The Bulldogs have to put pressure on Clements and try to force him into quick throws.
LA Tech has a chance to guarantee a winning season with a victory, while UAB can clinch bowl eligibility. There's a lot on the line for both teams so it should be a very good game. The odds makers have this as being a close game and every indication is that it will be. Again, turnovers will tell the story.