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North Texas Mean Green at UAB Blazers: Preview, Start Time, TV, Prediction

UAB sits alone atop the West division, but the Mean Green are coming to Birmingham in a game not even Vegas can get a handle on

NCAA Football: Alabama-Birmingham at North Texas Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

Date: Saturday, October 20th, 2018

Kickoff Time: 7:30 p.m. EST / 6:30 p.m. CST

Location: Legion Field, Birmingham, AL

TV/Streaming: beIn Sports

Line: Opened: Pick ‘Em, now UAB -1.5, O/U 54.5 as of Friday morning

Series Record: UAB leads, 2-1

Last Meeting: North Texas won 46-43, their first win in the series


College football schedules are tough enough to assemble anyway, what with logistics, TV schedules, class schedules, and travel. But then on top of that you’ve gotta arrange the season in an exciting order, and all you have to go by is the previous season.

A year ago, North Texas won all of its conference games except one, to FAU. The year before that, things stayed close with UTSA and as a result, the Mean Green will finish 2018 against those two schools.

In 2017 the Blazers certainly surprised, but without a divisional title, their 2018 schedule is a bit more scattershot, finishing the season with a non-conference game against Texas A&M, then cross-division opponent Middle Tennessee in the final week.

The short version: Schedules are drawn up the way they are so you don’t get, for example, a conference division decided in mid-October. But that’s exactly what could happen this Saturday.

Outlook - North Texas Mean Green

The Green started the season with a bang, not a whimper, shellacking the likes of SMU and Arkansas before suddenly finding themselves on shaky footing heading into conference play.

Mason Fine has been a walking highlight reel, but the UNT defense has been just as good, shutting down some pretty prolific passing games from the likes of Liberty, UTEP, and the aforementioned Arkansas.

The weak spots in recent weeks have just been two— passing and running. True, Fine threw for 292 yards and a touchdown against Southern Miss last week, and there are plenty of teams in C-USA who would be thrilled to have that stat line. But after tossing 444 yards against SMU in week one, expectations were set.

The other worry is the running game, which amassed only 135 yards last week if you deduct Fine’s rushing total. DeAndre Torrey contributed 95 yards and three touchdowns last week, but where Southern Miss has been thoroughly average since Jay Hopson took over, the Blazers have seen Bill Clark surpass all expectations. The Mean Green are the only thing standing in their way.

What a win would mean for North Texas

UAB is currently 3-0 in conference and in sole possession of first place in the C-USA West. They’ve beaten Louisiana Tech, a team which in turn beat UNT. A win for the Mean Green here would create a four-way tie in the west (assuming La Tech beats UTEP), with UNT waiting for a second Bulldog loss so they can rise back up to the top of the division.

Outlook - UAB Blazers

This team roared back a year ago, returning from shutting down their program to defy even optimistic expectations. 2018 was supposed to be a step up, but through seven weeks this has been a tough team to get a handle on.

After an opening-week blowout against a sacrificial FCS team, UAB dropped their match-up to Coastal Carolina the very next week, 47-24. At the time it just looked like the Chanticleers were poised for an epic season with their coach returning from a season-long medical leave, but they are currently 3-3 overall and 1-2 in their own conference.

The Blazers, meanwhile, have shut out that FCS opponent and Rice, as they should, but also squeaked by Tulane by a paltry eight points. Sure, they dominated Louisiana Tech two weeks ago, 28-7, but the week before that they beat Charlotte by an identical margin. Are the 49ers really that good? Our sources say no.

So what do we have to go on? Well for one, quarterback A.J. Erdely has been solid, throwing for 1,181 yards through their six games, good for eighth in the conference— tied with Charlotte’s Chris Reynolds (though to be fair, Erdely is averaging 8.6 yards a throw, to Reynolds’ 7.6). Not world-class numbers, but tell that to the Bulldogs.

For another thing, Spencer Brown is currently fourth in the conference in rushing, racking up 491 yards on 109 carries. UNT’s highest active rusher, DeAndre Torrey, is 13th.

In spite of UAB’s shocking victory over the Bulldogs last week, North Texas is absolutely the better team on paper. Thing is, so was Louisiana Tech, and the Blazers found a way to not just win, but dominate. They’ll have to do it again Saturday, because the prize isn’t just another victory, it’s the whole damn C-USA West.

What a win would mean for UAB

The last year before the Blazers were shut down, they went 6-6 and were denied what would have been their second bowl game in school history. In 2017, they won eight games, setting a school record for regular season wins and finally got that second bowl invite. In 2018, a win this Saturday would not only lock up bowl games in consecutive seasons, but hand UAB their first divisional title, ever, and a path to easily breaking that 8-win ceiling.

Prediction

This is suddenly the toughest game to predict all season, even Vegas threw up its hands and left it up to fate. In all honesty, were it not for one game— UAB’s domination of La Tech— this would be an easy call in North Texas’ favor.

But the Blazers dominated where North Texas ran neck and neck in a game either team could’ve won. The Blazers clearly have the better run game. The Mean Green clearly have the better passing game. Both defense’s have been playing great in conference games. For once, Vegas is right: This one could be too close to call. Take that, SEC.

Prediction: Some Great Damn Football

Other Prediction: UAB 40, UNT 37 (OT)